It seemed innocent. The elderly woman wanted some help getting to her car after tripping on a ramp. Pastor Dan Schroeder, serving in his usual chaplain duty at the south stadium, agreed to drive her and her friend to their destination.
They chatted a bit as Schroeder took her to her car over on 14th Street, north of the pedestrian bridge and across the railroad tracks. The next day, he called her pastor in York, Nebraska and found out that the woman was still spending time in a hospital due to a broken hip.
He never should have escorted her because of the university’s liability policy.
Schroeder calls his chaplaincy work a “ministry of presence.” There are many games where he simply sits in the first aid station and watches the game’s HuskerVision broadcast.
Even when people come into the station, it’s up to the EMTs and other medical staff to give treatment. Occasionally, even they need assistance from the chaplains. If someone comes in wanting to talk, Schroeder is there to talk.
2012 will be his thirteenth season as a Memorial Stadium chaplain. Like his father, Schroeder has been doing police chaplaincy work since he returned to Lincoln from Georgia in the late 1990s. Now, he’s in charge of organizing the schedule for the police chaplains who work at Memorial Stadium on gameday.
There are always three others and they met at the police motor pool on 6th and J before taking a van together to the stadium, always arriving within two hours of kickoff. They have a pass to park in the spaces directly south of the stadium and split from there to man separate stations.
Due to the stadium’s expansion in 2006, Schroeder’s station in the north stadium received an upgrade. It was just a small outpost on the edge of the stadium before, but now the new room has been increased in size and fully integrated into the stadium concourse.
The absolutely serious cases are few (thankfully, he’s never witnessed a death), but Schroeder has seen people shocked and have IV’s put into their arms.
Most of the cases result from heat exhaustion in September or the effects of the Nebraskan cold. Some of Nebraska’s older fans get up at six AM to put their sweatshirts on (or in the case of one person, long underwear) only to be sweating through them by the second quarter.
Schroeder sees plenty of people who he feels have no business going to games. For example, a woman who came into the station was suffering from the heat, carrying what looked like an oxygen tank. It turned out to be a chemo tank. An insane addition to the story, she showed up in the station the very next week.
Most people come into his first aid station for simple assistance. A nick or a bruise. A kid who gets separated from his or her parent (a common spring game occurrence). When it’s cold, people come into simply to warm up. It’s a comforting place to remedy life’s little annoyances.
(Pastor Dan Schroeder (left) stands next to former Senior Chaplain Larry Brandt in front of the Chaplain’s van. Credit: mightyfortress.us)
There was only one time when a player visited the station. In 2001, TCU defensive tackle John Turntine had received a serious spinal injury and was brought into the station for reasons Schroeder can’t remember.
He does remember how huge the player was in person and how concerned everyone was for his long-term health as they rushed him off to Lincoln General for several days.
As games wind down, Schroeder does his best to get to the elevator with four minutes left to go before people start pouring to the exits. This has led to some interesting elevator rides, including one with Larry the Cable Guy.
Schroeder has given him a hard time about being from Pawnee City. Once he and his fellow chaplains assemble at the van, they have to wait for people to clear out. Sometimes, the ambulance will have to rush to the hospital and they’ll depart early.
If not, they wait for the pedestrian traffic to clear out providing an additional 30 minute wait, give or take.
Sure, Schroeder may seem like he plays a small role, but he is one of many that make a some of the biggest difference never takes a snap.