BY LARRY VAUGHT
Kudos to Nathan Schwake, assistant athletics director for marketing, for making sure that Kami Bivins and her daughters — Kambri, 12, and Aubry, 10 — had a special memory at last week’s Kentucky-Utah Valley game.
Their father, Eric Bivins, was an Army veteran who lost his life because of PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome). He was a huge Kentucky basketball fan and the girls made a video asking UK to honor him at a game so others would know he was a “hero” for his service.
Schwake did even more. He invited them to the game and then played the girls’ video on the big screen at Rupp Arena as they stood at midcourt with the UK cheerleaders. Big Blue Nation Cares, a group that helps special UK fans, had provided 12 additional game tickets for family and friends and both the Hyatt Regency in Lexington (Friday) and Beaumont Inn/Old Owl Tavern in Harrodsburg (Thursday) had provided lodging.
“I met a very special veteran family. Introducing veterans at the UK basketball games is always one of my favorite announcements,” Maria Montgomery, a former Miss Kentucky who works UK basketball games and had dinner with the family the night before the game, said. “But this family was particularly special because of the video these girls made hoping UK would see it … and they did.”
Even better, Schwake helped arrange for Patrick Sparks, who sent to high school with Eric Bivins, to be at the game and sit with the Bivins family. It was Sparks’ first time back in Rupp Arena since his UK playing career ended.
Former UK All-American Mike Pratt, who now works for the UK Radio Network, said he got to briefly visit with Sparks.
“I hope he comes back to a few more games now. I loved his toughness on the court,” Pratt said.
Bivins said everything about the trip was amazing. She said it was “life changing” for her daughters and a time she’ll never forget.