BOSTON - Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask played goalie on Wednesday, though it was only for a few minutes, and not in his usual place of work.
A young patient at the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston took a mini-stick and fired a shot on Rask in the hallway outside his room.
Rask, back in Boston and beginning to gear up for the upcoming season, spent the afternoon visiting patients at the clinic, signing autographs and passing out goodie bags with mini sticks, pucks, coloring books and Bruins' gear to the kids.
"Yeah, he got it by me. He just grabbed the stick and started doing slapshots," laughed Rask, who was happy the young boy had picked up the sport so quickly. "So maybe there's a future Bruins' draft pick there."
Rask visited the Jimmy Fund Clinic in advance of the 13th Annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon taking place on August 19 and 20.
The 36-hour broadcast event features compelling stories from Dana-Farber patients, doctors, researchers and nurses, as well as celebrity guests and athletes, inspiring contributions to Dana-Farber.
The goaltender has spent time at the Jimmy Fund Clinic before, and he was happy to stop by and see the strength of the patients firsthand. One of the world's premier centers for pediatric research and treatment, the clinic focuses on a family-centered approach for outpatient care.
Since the visit wasn't during the season, Rask had the luxury of spending more time with the patients and their families.
"You have plenty of time to interact with the kids and just hang out here a little bit, so it was great," he smiled. "I don't have too much going on except for the baby at home."
Rask became a father for the first time this past spring, welcoming his new daughter into the world. While he has gone on hospital visits with the Bruins through the years, this was his first one as a father.
That didn't influence him differently on this visit, though, and for good reason.
"I don't know, it's always tough to see kids being in tough shape. When you have a kid, I guess you just feel thankful that your own child is healthy and everything, but then again, no child should go through anything like that," said Rask, who has always felt compassion for the children's situations, even before fatherhood.
"So it's just a tough situation no matter what, but as long as we can come visit and make their days better, that's all we really want to do."
For Rask and the Bruins, these visits have become second-nature to them.
"It's great, and you know, I was just thinking about it, it's really easy when you're in Boston to do these kinds of things because there's so many different hospitals, you can go any day, and not all cities and teams have that privilege," Rask said. "So it really takes little of our time and we're just happy to be able to help out whatever way we can."
"The Bruins have been doing a tremendous job, as long as I've been here, to really help us do things and even do things on our own time, so just a happy thing, we're happy to help."
One patient, Gianna, was beaming when she had the chance to meet Rask and shake his hand.
"I always wanted to be a goalie," she looked up and said to him with a smile.
When Rask first starting visiting the hospitals around Boston many years ago, he wasn't always recognized. Now, the goalie has young fans like Gianna watching him every game and following the team.
"That's changed over the years I guess," Rask smiled. "It's great that they're Bruins' fans."
One young boy, Dmitri, has had the chance to meet a handful of Bruins while undergoing his treatments through the Jimmy Fund Clinic. In fact, Dmitri's father kept the pictures on his phone for his son, and showed them to Rask during the visit - they featured Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith and Matt Bartkowski dressed up in Halloween costumes with Dmitri last October.
"Families have to be here every day, and sometimes a couple times a week, and having someone come in and take the time out to brighten their day, it really makes all the difference in the world," said Jen Noonan, Adolescent Specialist at Dana-Farber.
"These kids and families see these people on the news and follow them in sports, and to know that people take the time out to come here and visit means so much to not only to the staff, but the patients and families."
With the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon set for August 19-20, Noonan is looking forward to the opportunity for the public to experience what she and athletes like Rask experience every time they see the patients.
"I think getting the awareness out there and getting people to see a glimpse of what it's like here, as a staff member, we get to see every day the strength and resilience that these families show," said Noonan. "It's about showing the outside world how wonderful they are and how they really gather the strength that they need."
"You might have a friend or family member in your life or right now that is going through something and just having the awareness of what Dana-Farber is about and how to get involved, is really important."
To learn more about the Radio-Telethon, and how you can help raise funds for Dana-Farber, visit www.jimmyfund.org.