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UAB head coach Bryant Vincent has been around the Children’s Harbor Homecoming Game since the 2018 season. He knows – firsthand – how special the game is to the UAB players and coaches.

On Saturday, it took on a little more meaning.

“This is personal to me,” Vincent said following the 41-14 Conference USA victory over Middle Tennessee at Protective Stadium. “My niece, Anna Kamplain, she passed away at Children’s Harbor in 2017. You saw Skull (Jermaine Brown Jr.) wear JoyLikeAnna, that’s the foundation for Anna Kamplain. It’s personal, it’s special and I couldn’t be more proud to be the head coach in a game like this and experience what we just did.”

Anna Kamplain was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) when she was two years old. She lived an active childhood, enjoying sports, school, church activities and her friends, but signs that her disease was progressing showed up in her teenage years, according to the Joy Like Anna Foundation website. She received a liver transplant in December of 2017 and died a few weeks later due to complications. She was 15 years old and a freshman at Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa.

Anna was just one of 92 former or current Children’s Harbor patients and families being honored on Saturday. The number changes slightly each season but multiply that number by the six years that UAB football has partnered with Children’s Harbor and that’s a lot of lives touched.

Vincent said that the Blazers’ program has a bonding activity in fall camp called ‘Heroes and Hardships.’

“We talk about who our heroes are, who helped us get to where we’re at today, what are some hardships that helped us build and fight (and) what are some tough times and adversities that we’ve been through and lived through,” Vincent said. “Some of the stories that came up were some of our players’ hardships (about) the patients they’ve met through this game.”

Vincent said that shows the lasting impact of this game.

“This is not a one-day deal, it’s not a one-year deal,” Vincent said. “This is a relationship built over time that our players take a lot of pride in. It's just an honor to go out there and be able to do this again, to build more relationships, to affect families and to bring joy to patients, to kids.”

UAB quarterback Dylan Hopkins spoke of the inspiration of playing for Logan McCool.

“This game is probably my favorite game of the year,” Hopkins said. “(Thursday), we got to meet the families and I got to meet my girl, Logan. She is probably the sweetest girl I ever met, I just want to give her the world. Before the game today, I remember walking out of the tunnel, her dad was holding her up and that just made my day.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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