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ThunderBug and Jeff Halpern Unveil New Book at University Community Hospital

by Lonnie Herman / Tampa Bay Lightning

The brightly colored halls of the University Community Hospital’s Pediatric section seemed a little brighter today as the Tampa Bay Lightning mascot, ThunderBug, accompanied by Lightning forward Jeff Halpern, roamed the corridors, spreading cheer, autographs and delivering copies of the new book, “ThunderBug’s Great Adventure at University Community Hospital.”

The book, written by Robin Gonzalez and illustrated by Peter Bajohr of Pop Design Group, is designed to familiarize young children about the hospital and what they might expect during their stay. The story line follows ThunderBug through the facility after he arrives following an accident playing hockey.

“Research shows that the more young patients know what to expect in a hospital setting, the more positive the experience will be for them and their families,” UCH MS Administrative Director of Pediatrics Marge Boyer said. “Children fear the unknown, but this book prepares them for what they will see.”

The adventure takes ThunderBug through all aspects of the pediatric area, including the Pediatric Emergency Room, MRI, X-Rays, surgery, post-op and recovery at UCH.

“At the Lightning, we take our community involvement very seriously,” Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton said at a conference to introduce the book, a joint production of UCH and the Lightning Foundation. “This is part of our mission and our focus. We try to reach down deeper into the community with initiatives like this and try to make a difference.

“That means a lot to us as an organization.”

This is the fifth year of the partnership between UCH and the Lightning, Lightning Foundation Executive Director Nancy Crane pointed out.

“Our theme at the Lightning Foundation is education,” Crane said.  “Our goal with this project is to try to make children feel more comfortable in the hospital by using this book. We could not have done this book without the help of the entire staff here at the hospital.”

And then it was time for ThunderBug, escorted by Halpern, to visit some young patients.

“That’s my favorite hockey player!” James Adrin said when he spotted Halpern. “I love hockey and I love this hospital!”

Berlin Waters thought today would just be another day as a patient until ThunderBug, trailed by Halpern, bounded into her room. Berlin, a 14-year-old soccer player, chatted eagerly with the Lightning player about her favorite sport.

And if the visit cheered up some kids, it was apparent that it meant just as much, if not more, to Jeff Halpern.

“It always amazes me just how brave kids like these are,” Halpern said. “I tell them that I think they are more brave and more courageous than even the guys in our locker room.”

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