It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” right?
And it can also be the busiest…
And the craziest…
And the most stressful.
And without fail, just when I begin to feel overwhelmed by the holidays and all of the stressful madness, I get knocked back into reality with a healthy dose of perspective.
That perspective came my way this week when I joined the Anaheim Ducks for their annual visit to CHOC Children’s, a time when the players take a few moments out of their hockey-playing schedules to spread some holiday cheer and put smiles on the faces of some brave and inspiring kids.
For many of the players, it was their first time inside CHOC’s new $560 million, 426,000 square foot Bill Holmes Tower and they were duly impressed. The seven-story addition houses critical patient services dedicated exclusively to pediatrics, such as emergency services, radiology/imaging, lab services and the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute. It makes an already fantastic facility that provides crucial services to our community even better.
Before the players headed up to see the kids, Ducks players Ben Lovejoy, Jonas Hiller and Cam Fowler stepped inside Seacrest Studios to do a segment for the hospital’s in-house radio station.
Then the team broke up into groups, and with Wild Wingers Kids Club kits in hand, they went to visit some of the kids who are spending at least part of their holiday season in the hospital.
I joined Ducks players Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Dustin Penner, Sheldon Souray, Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik as they donned their Santa hats and made their way to the 3rd Floor of the tower.
This was my third time attending this event and I’m always emotionally overwhelmed at how gracious and thankful the kids and families are who get a few minutes with these local hockey heroes.
Some of the kids couldn’t wait to put on their Viktor Fasth t-shirts and goalie masks from the kits. Some of the kids just enjoyed chatting with the players. And the players, especially Teemu Selanne, Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner, were so great about engaging not only with the patients, but also with the parents, siblings and other family members who are there each day with the kids.
And even if the kids weren’t die-hard hockey fans, it didn’t matter. They were still excited to have some visitors and receive some Ducks gear. For many of these kids, the Kids Club kits provide their first exposure to hockey and the chance to attend their first game. For all of them, it was a bright spot in an otherwise challenging and isolating day.
The duration of stay for these patients ranges from just a few days to several weeks. And while they all hope to be home in time for Christmas, it was clear that their parents’ only hope this holiday was for health for their child. And if that means staying at CHOC a little longer than expected, then so be it.
I always walk away from this event with a renewed sense of perspective that is much needed during this holiday season. And it hit a little closer to home for me, as not even 48 hours after I left the hospital, the son of one of my dearest friends was admitted to CHOC for an unexpected surgery.
Within a couple of hours of his arrival, he had a Wild Wingers Kids Club kit in his hands. For a four-year-old who is about to face some pretty scary things, it was a welcomed gift that made him smile. And I know it calmed the hearts of his parents as well, even if for a moment.
So it may be a very stressful time of the year, but it’s also a time where I thankfully am forced into some moments that take my focus off of the frenzy and put it back on what matters. I have much to be grateful for, and I’m proud of the Ducks, their longstanding relationship with CHOC and all they do for the kids there who could use some extra joy this holiday season.
You can join the Anaheim Ducks during the month of December in their giving to CHOC by participating in the club’s 8th annual Kits for Kids Donation Drive. Help share the great sport of hockey and put a smile on a child’s face by donating a Wild Wingers Kids Club kit.
Visit anaheimducks.com/choc for more details and to donate online.