Birthday Salvation: Thanks Penn State & World Campus!!

It was June 28th and my 43rd birthday. I love my birthday like no other. I celebrate it twice a day, every day, whenever the clock hits 6:28. Most think I am crazy because it’s just me turning older, but I look at it as getting better like a fine wine. So, on my actual birthday my family knows it is my time to shine and be put on a pedestal.

The morning set the tone; I woke up early waiting for breakfast in bed. As I sat and stared at the clock, there was no movement in the house. No one was waking up! Two hours went by and I was mad! I went to the store, got muffins for everyone thinking, well this will wake them up and they can begin the love fest. Guess what, nothing, not a stir!

I took the dogs out hoping that when we returned, they would make noise and wake everyone up. Again, nada! My blood was boiling at this point; it’s not like they didn’t know what I expected.

Finally, when everyone woke up, they barely said happy birthday. We got the car packed and headed out to State College. I love State College and it’s a great place to celebrate my birthday, however, on that day it took us what seemed like a lifetime to arrive. My entire birthday was spent in the car? This couldn’t be.

We arrive at the Penn Stater Hotel, where I thought maybe our friends would jump out for a secret surprise! Guess what, nope, not happening!

My family and friends
My family and friends.

I gave up. My day was almost over and there simply was nothing special for me. I truly tried to keep a stiff upper lip, but it was hard. After we got settled in, we went to visit our friends who recently moved to State College, for dinner and what a lovely surprise! THEY had gotten me a birthday cake, made a delicious dinner and had presents for me! How amazing is that?

This is where it all began to turn around for me. As the dinner celebration continued, my calendar alarm went off reminding me that I had to sign on to do a Google chat with Patrick Chambers, Penn State’s head men’s basketball coach, through the World Campus. Please feel free to check it out online, it was a great opportunity to get to meet Coach Chambers.

As we kicked off the live chat, I completely forgot about the lack of events that took place on my birthday. I had so much fun and was honored to have the chance to be a part of this chat. Being a sports fan and even bigger Penn State fan, having the opportunity to get to speak to Coach Chambers and having a sense for what he is all about was fantastic. Coach Chambers is truly an amazing man with a great sense of humor. He epitomizes Penn State.

During the chat, Coach Chambers was given advance notice that “Ivy from New York City” was celebrating a birthday. He gave me a special birthday “shout out” and when I told him I was right in State College, he invited the family and I to come out to basketball practice the next day. I couldn’t wait.

We left our friends’ condo to get milk for our 22-month-old daughter. As tradition, we always drive by Beaver Stadium on our way downtown. It was dark by the players’ entrance, but my husband, upon sighting Coach Larry Johnson Sr., slammed on the brakes and jumped out to give our friend (and my husband’s coach from Football Fantasy Camp) a huge hug. Coach Johnson wished me a happy birthday as I sat in the car, and invited us to the Football Youth Camp practices the next day! Wow!!!! I suddenly felt very popular and special on my birthday.

We had a full agenda now, after worrying my husband Dion (see my other posts) “winged it” for my birthday.

We woke up early, had breakfast at the Waffle Shop, and then headed up to the practice fields to see Coach Johnson. There were hundreds of high school age kids being coached by what seemed like an army of coaches.  The sound of whistles filled the air. There was motion everywhere, and footballs in the sky. Coach Johnson was about 100 yards away, his hulking presence and favorite hat making him easy to spot.

My daughters and I with Coach Johnson
My daughters and I with Coach Johnson.

Seeing him was like having a reunion. As he was only one of two coaches to be included as part of the new coaching staff, Dion was happy to just see him again. He pulled himself out of the practice drill he was overseeing, and spent a good 15 minutes catching up with us. We had a lot of laughs, and took photos, the best one being Coach Johnson being hugged by our toddler.

Heading out to the parking lot, Dion made eye contact with one of the coaches he did not recognize. He greeted the coach cordially with “Hello, Coach.” The coach came out of his drills to come over and introduce himself, and also find out who we were. The coach turned out to be the new running back coach, Charles London.

Meeting Coach London
Meeting Coach London.

We welcomed him to Penn State and reached many common bonds in the short time. Upon finding out that we came up from New York City to celebrate my birthday, he wished me a happy birthday and we posed for photos. Hugs were shared all around and we said we would catch up during the weekend of the first home game. As it turns out, we have been communicating with Coach London regularly and plan on seeing him during the month of August. He is a fine man and fits well into the Penn State family.

It was now on to basketball practice. Entering Bryce Jordan Center, we see Coach Chambers. He immediately recognizes me and we share lots of laughs, family stories and hugs. Coach Chambers (on crutches from the excitement of meeting me. Nah…it was knee surgery), stopped practice for a second to have his Marketing Coordinator, Dave “Cappy” Caporaletti, take us on what seemed like a never-ending tour of the entire Jordan Center. I got to sit behind Coach Chambers’ desk!!!

Touring the Bryce Jordan Center
Touring the Bryce Jordan Center.

We took photos with some of the student-athletes from the team and received special wristbands the team wears that say “Attitude.”

At the end of the tour, we said our good-byes to Cappy and Coach Chambers, and committed to come out to support the team this season. I can’t wait for the start of the season.

Hanging out with Cappy, and Coach Chambers
Hanging out with Cappy (to the left), and Coach Chambers (on the right).

Afterwards, Dion said, “I had this weekend all planned out!” I punched him in the arm and we laughed and hugged all the way to the car.

Thank you, Penn State and World Campus, for one of the best birthdays a family could ever give me.