Article about Holiday Magic From Markus, 2010 appeared on Fightingsioux.com
Twenty years ago, Markus Bryant was born in Grand Forks, N.D. Like many young boys born in the Red River Valley, he grew up cheering for the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. His team of choice – UND football.
But Markus wasn’t just another Sioux fan. In the years to come, he would become one of the most inspirational fans to ever yell, “Go Sioux!”
At the age of 13, young Markus was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than sit back and let the disease take its course, he put up a fight. He lived through his cancer with a positive attitude and never lost his passion for sports.
After hearing of his condition, the Fighting Sioux football team and the coaches invited Markus to join them for practices and games as a special guest. His support for Sioux football didn’t end when the final whistle blew.
When the athletes and/or the coaching staff were down for any reason, Markus was there to send letters and e-mails full of courage, faith, and honesty. This all came from a young man whose day-to-day didn’t depend on practice schedules, drill and meetings, but the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, friends, and family.
After making such an impression, Markus was asked to become the 12th member of the 2001 Fighting Sioux football team and was there as the Sioux battled their way to the best season in the history of the program.
An outstanding season led the Sioux to Florence, Ala., for the NCAA Division II championship. In preparation for the trip, both players and coaches helped raise money so that their 12th-man and his family could travel with them. Markus declined.
This 13-year-old boy didn’t believe that his illness should make him any more worthy anyone else. Determined to have their biggest fan there with them at the game, the Fighting Sioux raised even more money. Markus and his family would now be joined with one of his friends and his family.
Markus watched as the Sioux football team won their first Division II national championship. After the game, he was asked to the podium and raised the trophy with the team. He later told friends and family that it was the happiest moment of his life.
In November 2002, and with the blessing of Markus, the Sioux football team established “Holiday Magic from Markus”. Its mission – to brighten the holidays for children like Markus who are battling cancer and other serious illnesses. Each year, fundraising efforts by players and coaches allow for them to buy gifts for area children diagnosed with chronic, debilitating illnesses. These gifts come directly from their personal wish lists.
Unfortunately, Markus was never able to see the smiles on these children’s faces. In December of 2002, he succumbed to the disease.
To the Sioux, “Holiday Magic from Markus” is a way to inspire involvement and spread hope in the community, just as Markus did, during the holiday season. Though cut short, his life was an example of how just one person has the ability to inspire many.
This year, junior linebacker Marcus Tibesar (St. Paul, Minn.) took the reigns for the Sioux. He began working with the “Holiday Magic of Markus” as a freshman, alongside Chris Beatty and Trent Christensen. He was so moved that he decided to take it upon himself to make sure this season was a success.
This season’s efforts rose over $2,000 with the majority of the funds coming from alumni.
“It means a lot to me and the team since it’s a football-only event,” Tibesar said. “It really gives us a chance to realize how many blessings we have. These kids didn’t choose this and they never stop fighting.”
Tibesar, along with a number of other players, spent the past two weekends purchasing and wrapping gifts. On Saturday, they delivered these gifts to the Altru Clinic.
“There were 10 kids ranging in age from 1 to 13,” Tibesar said. “We bought a rocking horse for one of the younger girls. Right after she unwrapped it, she jumped on and wouldn’t get off.”
Sue Hafner, nurse practitioner at the pediatric department of Altru Clinc-Main and a member of the UND football stat crew, was the first to introduce the team to Markus and has been a part of “Holiday Magic from Markus” ever since.
“This is always a truly fun event for the players and the children,” Hafner said. “Markus was such a selfless person and was always more concerned with how other people were doing. He would be so proud.”http://www.fightingsioux.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?catid=9814&id=82187