As the New Jersey Devils embarked on an annual tradition, visiting patients, families and staff at hospitals around New Jersey, recent addition Tyler Kennedy joined longtime Devils, captain Andy Greene and Patrik Elias, at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. Between trips to the pediatric department, burn center and pediatric emergency department, the players enjoyed an afternoon of cheering up everyone at the hospital.
“Whenever you can bring a smile to a kid’s face…it’s always rewarding,” Kennedy said, making his debut at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. “When you can try to brighten their day, it’s great.” After arriving at the hospital, the trio set to signing pucks, hats and t-shirts to present as gifts to the patients. In addition to the signed gifts, the players had blankets featuring the NHL mascots, #Relentless hand towels, wristbands and more.
When the players reached the Pediatrics wing, Barnabas Health Senior Vice President of Corporate External Affairs Lou LaSalle, who has been a part of the team’s hospital visits for 25 years, told Kennedy and the other players the story behind how the late Dr. John McMullen, former owner of the Devils, became a benefactor of the hospital and helped open the John and Jacqueline McMullen Children’s Center in 2005.
“What they do with the kids is really uplifting,” LaSalle said. “No one does it better than the Devils. They are constantly the consummate friends of our patients.”
As the players made their way from room to room, Kennedy followed the lead of Elias, who had been to Saint Barnabas many times before. “They’ve been around, so it helps,” Kennedy said of the longtime Devils. At one point as the players moved through the hospital, Elias offered Kennedy various pieces of advice, including to simply relax. When the players would give blankets to the younger patients, Kennedy took it upon himself to help find NJ among the league’s mascots. The three players divided the duty of handing out gifts to the patients. The children were not the only ones excited to see the players. Parents, often asked to get photos, even if their child was sleeping.
After visiting the patients in the pediatrics unit, and stopping by the play room to watch the day’s magic performance, the players headed to Saint Barnabas’ burn center, the only state-certified burn treatment facility in New Jersey. Speaking with LaSalle, Kennedy agreed when LaSalle said seeing the patients could be emotional. The players did not meet with any patients, but visited the doctors, nurses and staff that help patients that may be with the hospital for months at a time.
|Devils players pose with the pediatrics emergency department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. After making the rounds visiting patients, Kennedy, Greene and Elias turned their attention to the staff. |
Following the trip to the burn center, the players made an unplanned trip to the emergency department, visiting the children’s wing. As with the rest of the hospital, staff were nearly as excited about the player visits as the children. After more pictures with the staff, Kennedy successfully completed his first community day with the Devils.
“It’s a great community. I didn’t know very much about it [before,]” Kennedy said, referencing New Jersey. “But it’s been very easy for me to get adjusted.” Kennedy had done hospital visits earlier in his NHL career, and could pull on that experience while at Saint Barnabas. “It’s so nice to see kids smile when they’re in these situations. We’re all just normal guys with a special talent,” Kennedy said. “Whenever we can help out, it’s always great.”