By Jane Murcia
When ESPN college basketball commentator Sam Ravech was forced to broadcast from his home during the COVID-19 pandemic, he realized he was missing a vital element to make his show pop — an inspiring background.
With the new normal of broadcasting games from their living rooms, dens or bedrooms, many of his colleagues were using personal photographs or sports memorabilia as their backdrops. Ravech saw an opportunity to do something different and make a statement.
He decided to showcase the art of hospitalized children. So Ravech reached out to Kelli Carroll, director of the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital Chase Child Life Program, to ask kids hospitalized at UCLA to create drawings and paintings featuring their favorite sports, teams or players that he could put on the wall behind him.
The children were thrilled, and they immediately got to work expressing their love in paint and colored pencils for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, UCLA Bruins and other teams.
Xavier Mesa, a young patient, was excited to show that his favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys — sorry, L.A. Rams. But the Cowboys are not the only team that Xavier roots for. “I also love the Lakers!” he says. “I love to watch LeBron. He is my favorite player on the team.”
Another young patient, Debbie Flores, wanted everyone to know that she appreciates all sports, including cheerleading and golf. “I love to play sports,” she says. “When I used to go to school [in person], I would play everything.” She especially loves UCLA — “That’s my dream school!” she says — and she proudly wore a UCLA basketball jersey for her photo with her artwork.
Drawing and painting can be powerful healing tools, Carroll says. “Without realizing it, Sam partnered with us in providing a space for children on the mend to feel like they are seen.”
As the art and photos came in, Ravech was delighted, and he quickly put them up on the brick wall behind him for his live broadcasts of women’s college basketball. He hopes to continue to spotlight the creativity of hospitalized children as he broadcasts from home. “In times like these, we can all use a smile, and that is what the wonderful kids at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital provided for all of our viewers on ESPN,” he says.
It has been a kick for the kids, and also for the members of Carroll’s child-life staff. “We are so happy we could partner with Sam on this,” Carroll says. “The ability to point out to kids watching the broadcast that their art is on television not only brings them joy, it also reminds them they are not limited to the hospital walls, that they matter to the community and that they have the potential to also bring happiness to others.”
Jane Murcia is a UCLA Health media relations officer