If you looked around Marnie’s Lounge at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children on Tuesday, you’d find yourself among some of the toughest talent in the game. No, we’re not talking about the basketball players freely roaming the room signing autographs, but the brave kids eagerly awaiting a chance to meet their favourite Toronto Raptors.
Photo: Nicholas Mizera/BALLnROLL.com
The team made its annual SickKids visit to lift the spirits of children diagnosed with serious medical conditions. According to its website, the facility treats an estimated 58,000 patients every year. It is the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in Canada.
“They’re… going through unbelievable struggles. They’re fighters. They’re going at it day in, day out,” said Landry Fields in an interview after Monday night’s game against the Pistons. He said that the team’s annual visits are about doing something bigger than basketball.
If the kids’ smiles were any indicator, that was certainly the case this year.
After crowding into the room already packed with visitors, volunteers and media, the towering players kicked things off by handing out Raptors dolls and going one-on-one with patients. In the common area, DeMar DeRozan flexed his NBA 2K15 skills playing a friendly round with a tiny fan. The Raptor mascot amused onlookers by juggling billiard balls as Lucas Nogueira performed trick shots at the pool table.
Swingman James Johnson and point guard Greivis Vasquez cheered on young Kadin Jules as the 10-year-old scored on one of their teammates during a heated match of dome hockey. “I couldn’t get to my goalie!” cried his opponent as those watching threw their arms up and howled their approval.
Johnson told us after the Pistons game that the visits hit especially close to home for him and other Raptors who have kids of their own. Johnson’s son was born prematurely by six weeks in 2013, requiring hospitalization for life-threatening complications.
“You don’t get no chills when you get up on the free throw line when it’s time to win a game,” said Johnson. “But when you go to these events when you’re seeing these kids that are stronger than any of the competitors you go against every night? You just feel for them, you’re proud of them. The chills are really there.”
The visits also provide a shift in perspective that the players find humbling. “These kids are fighting for real-for real, and not making no complaints about it,” continued Johnson.
“These kids bring you a different kind of meaning of life.”
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Posted on Mar 19, 2013