New York Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais cut his summer vacation short to visit Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park on August 31.
The five-year veteran began his trip by meeting some of the teenagers in the Adolescent Department, signing autographs, taking pictures and playing video games. He also handed out shirts, yearbooks, and stickers to all the children he met, widening smiles in every room he visited. Gervais spoke with the youngsters about their favorite hobbies and interests, getting to know them and easily striking up conversations. He even taught them how to count to five in French, while one of the patients reciprocated in Spanish.
Gervais brought more Islanders souvenirs and keepsakes to the hematology and oncology level, where he made even more friends sketching cartoons with newfound buddies Wesley and Madison. One illustration that he worked on with them became the newest decoration in the room.
“This is what we want to get with the kids, is to get a little contact with them, put smile on their face and get to change their routine a little bit, which is really tough,” Gervais said. “I really enjoyed playing games with the kids and drawing pictures with them. It’s a lot of fun.”
As he worked his way through one of the largest children’s hospitals in the country, the Quebec-born blueliner stumbled upon one of the bigger Islanders fans in the building and shared some private moments with him and his family. Those can be some of the more special moments for a family in the midst of challenging times.
“If there's one day where the parents can actually sit back and see their kids smile and laugh a bit, that's all that matters,” Gervais said.
Gervais made sure there were plenty of smiles and laughter to go around the medical center with his genuine personality on display all day.
“Bruno is more than a social guy,” said Ann Rina, Islanders Community Relations Manager. “He’s very engaging when he gets in there with the kids.”
This time of year can be especially hard on families with children who are normally planning for the start of school.
“A lot of these kids are missing out on the beginning of school, so this helps take their mind off that, among other things,” Rina said. “The parents were very thankful and really enjoyed the visits, almost as much as their children.”
Each year the New York Islanders visit pediatric units at local hospitals during the month of December as well as throughout the course of the Islanders season. Over the 2009-10 season, the team visited the following hospitals: Schneider’s Children Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital, Winthrop University Hospital, Nassau University Medical Center, Good Samaritan Hospital, South Nassau Communities Hospital, and the Henry Viscardi School: National Center for Disabilities.
Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York is the only hospital on Long Island that is solely dedicated to the care of children and has been named one of America's Best Children's Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. For more information about their efforts, visit their website at SchneidersHospital.org.