AURORA, Colo. - The Colorado Avalanche made its annual holiday visit Monday to Children's Hospital Colorado, helping spread some holiday cheer and brighten the days of some very special children. This was the 17th year the Avs have visited patients and their families at the hospital.
“I think this is a day we all circle on our calendars, and we all look forward to it,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “It really is hard to describe how it makes us feel when you walk in the door of the kids' rooms and you see how happy they get. That's really what the holiday season is all about: to spread some smiles, have fun and sign some autographs. It really is a special day for us.”
Avalanche players, coaches, mascot Bernie and the Ice Girls visited patients' rooms, signed autographs, distributed Bernie plush animals, took pictures with the children and their families and, most importantly, talked with the kids to help lift their spirits.
“It's a special moment,” Landeskog said when asked how it felt to see the reaction on the kids' faces. “Some of them are just waking up from a nap, some of them just had lunch and a lot of the time it's just a big surprise. They don't know that we're coming and sometimes they don't even know who we are. But they still get excited and they get a little stuffed animal, so it's really special.”
The players and coaches were broken into five groups and visited the young patients throughout different units of the hospital, including cancer, surgery, behavioral, cardiac and cystic fibrosis.
While some of the scenes made it tough at times for the Avs players and coaches, it was rewarding for them to see the children smile and forget about what they're going through, if only for a short time.
“It was fun,” Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said. “It takes an hour out of our day to do something as simple as this, and it's probably hours of joy for these kids who are going through some tough stuff. They can think about something else other than what they're going through, and it's something easy for us to do that can benefit them for a while.
“Overall it was a good day, but it's a tough day too because you feel bad for a lot of the kids in there. Some kids are barely a year old and they're in there battling certain illnesses. Any time you get a chance to help somebody, it feels good.”
Landeskog was also able to pick up a few future Avs fans by the end of the day after talking with some of the kids and their families.
“I recruited some fans from Oklahoma today and some fans from all around the United States,” Landeskog said laughing. “It really is great to chat with them. Some of them are from in-state and some are from out-of-state. It means a lot to us to be able to make an impact like this.”