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Notre Dame players bring Christmas joy to children at local hospitals

Santa, Mrs. Claus and a jolly bunch of Irish elves celebrated the holidays with children and their families who have been battling life threatening illnesses from St. Joseph Medical Center and Memorial Children's Hospital.

"Soccer, basketball, volleyball, musical chairs, pretend snowball fight," said 8 year old Alaya Gibson.

From sports and games to cookie decorating and face painting, the event was all about the kids.

"The best part would just probably be seeing all the kids just getting out from where they are and forgetting about what they've been through and being in the moment. And that's kind of our goal, taking their mind off of everything," said Abby Prohaska, a member of the Notre Dame women's basketball team.

Fun, not just for the kids who have been sick, but for their entire family.

"We used to not go out at all when he had cancer, so when we're here we can actually have fun and do some fun things," said 10-year-old Luke Burkey.

It's the 23rd year for the event and, for some, it has become a family tradition.

"About 11 years now. It's like really inspiring because it makes you feel like love and stuff. I just love to come for the other kids to let them know it will get better," said 15-year-old Madison Dare.

The Notre Dame student athletes became big kids for the night having just as much fun as the little ones.

"They don't know what these kids are going through, they just treat them like they're human beings. They don't know they're sick, they don't shy away from it, which is great," said Rick Dare, Madison's dad.

No Christmas event would be complete without sitting on Santa's lap.

"The best part is being with the people that you love and people that you care about. You know, that's what I think Christmas is all about. And these events just amplify that. And seeing your teammates and seeing the kids and their parents, everyone smiling, having a good time, really brings in the holiday joy," said Rex Pflueger.

Pflueger, a Notre Dame men's basketball player, played Santa at the event.

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