PROVO — It's a 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, then two more hours to Salt Lake City, and then an hour's drive to Provo — but that's nothing for a true BYU fan like Douglas Holyoak, who traveled across the world with his wife, Charisse, to be at the inaugural BYU Football Date Night on Wednesday.
"Of course we're gonna come," Charisse Holyoak said, smiling up at her husband. "We don't get to come to any games."
"She surprised me," he said. "I've had season tickets since eighth grade, but we've lived out of the state since 1987."
The Holyoaks and 120 other couples mingled with football players, coaches and Cosmo at LaVell Edwards Stadium, then ran drills as a fundraiser for the football team's Thursday's Heroes program.
Each Thursday, the football team invites a person with special needs or a terminal illness to football practice in an attempt to help brighten his or her life.
"We're trying to make them feel like a king or a queen for a day," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "It's a way to give back through BYU football. We love to win football games ... but we also love to help people."
"We felt, as a family, that we've been given so much that we have a responsibility to give back to others," coach Mendenhall's wife, Holly, explained to the couples.
The chance to support the Thursday's Heroes program (and a love of BYU football) drew Kory and Stephanie Boyd to the Couples Clinic. Their LDS Church bishop had brain cancer and had been honored by the football team.
"He came out to practice, and the team rallied around him," Kory Boyd said. "It was really nice."
The evening began with a catered dinner under the south stands, with rain interrupting on and off throughout the date. Yet, even the downpour couldn't quench the enthusiasm of the blue-and-white-clad fans.
Katie Bitter wouldn't call herself a die-hard fan, but more of a die-hard-fan supporter.4 comments on this story
"This is his birthday present," she said, pointing to her husband, Brandon, who was thrilled to meet the players and coaches.
But the Bitters' friends, Elizabeth and Brian Pugh, are both ultra fans, with another ultra fan due in two weeks.
"We're really hoping to deliver the baby on the field," Brian Pugh joked. "I'm sure BYU would give us season tickets for life."
The couple hasn't decided on a name yet, but Elizabeth Pugh laughed as she offered her suggestion, "We should let the football players name her."