KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Patients from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital were invited to participate in the Vol Walk and watch warmups from the sidelines ahead of UT’s home football game Saturday.

Twelve children from ETCH were selected as “Special Spectators” for Tennessee’s game against University of Connecticut. The group was able to participate in the Vol Walk down to the stadium before the team, and watch from the sidelines as the teams warmed up. They, and their families, were also given tickets to the game.

Claire Hurd was one of the patients selected, and described the day as the experience of a lifetime.

“A very big blessing. I was very happy and excited, and it’s been amazing so far, I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hurd said.

12-year-old Preston Wells said he was shocked when he found out he was going.

“I was at the hospital and I told Mamaw I wanted to come here and it was a while ago. She said ‘it’s something you were really wanting to do, and when you come home I’ll tell you.’ Then I came home and she said ‘you’re going to get to do the Vol walk and go to the Tennessee game,’ and my mouth dropped,” Wells said.

Dr. Joe Childs, former Chief Medical Officer at ETCH, said the support from UT and it’s fans has been overwhelming.

“These wonderful patients have physical challenges and medical challenges, and it’s just a great break from thinking about their problems and their illnesses and being here to just enjoy the atmosphere,” Childs said. “The positive reaction from the crowd was really special in the Vol walk. It’s just going to be something they’ll remember forever.”

That’s especially true for Preston.

“It’s a real experience, I mean you don’t get to do this real often and I’m just lucky I get the chance to do it,” Preston said.