Aug. 9, 2023 | iCare Newsletter
by Bullseye Media

We are… United for Hoops

Christian Spears hit the ground running when he became Marshall University’s athletic director in March of 2022. In short order, he reinvigorated the drive to construct a new baseball stadium, drew up plans for additional ticket revenue, and laid the groundwork for later acquiring a trio of high-tech video scoreboards for the football, soccer and softball stadiums.

But he didn’t stop there. The former deputy athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to get closely involved with his new hometown. So Spears partnered with Hoops Family Children’s Hospital (HFCH) at Cabell Huntington Hospital along with United Banks to create the We are … United for Hoops campaign during Marshall’s football season.

“One of the best things we did last year was the United for Hoops Junior Captain of the Game,” Spears said. “Partnering with Hoops was inspirational for us.”

Spears worked with MU Herd Football Coach Charles Huff, United Bank Market President Andrew Dawson, as well as patients and families at HFCH.  demonstrating how big things can happen when a community comes together.

At each home football game, United Bank, Marshall Athletics and the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation presented HFCH patients the Junior Captains. Walking hand in hand, the HFCH patients assisted the team captains for the coin toss at mid-field. Six youngsters—all who had faced or were facing serious medical issues—held this honorary title.

“It’s good when we get a chance to open our doors to the community,” Huff said. “Obviously, the kids involved in this program are going through a lot more than the average kid at their age. To give them a glimmer of hope and excitement for a short period of time is always a positive.”

The Junior Captains and their families were treated like royalty, starting with being the guest of honor at a weeknight practice and continuing with gifts and special treatment on game day.

“Knowing that children from various communities came to Huntington to fight their medical conditions, to find the support and treatment they needed and then to tell that story was great,” Spears said. “We got to engage with those children and their families and learn about their journey,”

Taking this unique partnership a step further, United Bank pledged five dollars for every point scored by the Thundering Herd Football team in 2022 to support the continued growth of HFCH.

“Seeing different, local organizations work together for a common goal is amazing,” Dawson said. “It’s so important for our community to collaborate on projects to make a greater impact.”

The most unique aspect of this project is the sense of community that it created – bringing together leaders, professionals, fans, families, children and even big, tough football players.

“I remember one of the young girls was so afraid because the guys were so big that she barely said anything, but the smile on her face was huge,” Huff said. “That’s what we try to do. We want to put a smile on these kids’ faces. That’s always a positive.”

“Our team was inspired by their courage and their will to overcome adversity,” Spears said. “That is extraordinarily rewarding for all of us at Marshall.”

To meet last year’s Junior Captains, visit


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