BRIGHTON, MA — Franciscan Hospital for Children is about five miles away from the TD Garden, but if you're inside Brighton's famous facility the distance between the buildings seems significantly shorter.
In Franciscan's hallways, glass cases display Black & Gold pennants with player signatures and other memorabilia. Plaques sit on the walls of three rooms in the building to recognize the B’s ongoing partnership with the hospital.
On Thursday night, that relationship continued as a group of B’s staff members traveled to the hospital to visit the facility's young patients and host an ice cream social.
"The Bruins are phenomenal to us," said Diane Newark, Franciscan Director of Development. "I think we have three rooms that were renovated thanks to the Bruins."
The night began with staff decorating a playroom for a group of children staying in the rehab unit. Black & Gold balloons populated the air space, with B's signs and flags draped over the tables and walls. And, one by one, the four children came in, before finally getting a visit from Blades, and each receiving a Bruins goody bag.
"The cases here are often severe, and sometimes the kids are here for a very long period of time, so it’s important to be here to help bring the kids some fun," said Kerry Collins, the Bruins Director of Community Relations. "The Bruins have had a long relationship with Franciscan.
"It’s a great hospital."
Blades and the Bruins staff made the rounds room-to-room. More goody bags were handed out, smiles were shared and high-fives were exchanged with the Black & Gold's famous mascot.
Downstairs, in another unit of the facility — an inpatient mental health center for at-risk youths — more B's staff members set up an ice cream sundae station. As everyone enjoyed the snack, kids in the unit chatted it up with the B’s staff, played card games and, of course, talked some hockey.
"We started off the visit up on our rehab unit, where kids come who [might] have been in a car accident," Newark said. "They’re here for rehab to learn how to walk, and talk, and eat again.
"Those kids can be here for a year, or 18 months, so having visitors come in to break up the day, make it exciting, give them something new to talk about is really, really important."
Collins said it was nice to see the staff interact with the children of Franciscan, and to see, firsthand, the impact the Bruins partnership with the hospital has.
Newark said that dynamic is indispensable.
"We’re finishing up [the visit] on our inpatient mental health unit, which is kids who have...come directly to us from an emergency room," Newark explained. "It’s really nice for these kids to have visits to show them that people care about them, and to help take the stigma off mental health, and just to really make them feel special."
By the looks and sound of it, the children at Franciscan made Blades and the B's staff feel pretty special, too.