On Wednesday, November 6th the Toronto Maple Leafs took part in their annual visit to SickKids Hospital in Toronto and created memories that will last a lifetime.
Upon arrival, the players gathered in the Bear Theatre and prepared to meet the patients. For the full team visit, the Leafs signed autograph cards, donned jerseys, and prepped their gift packages for patients at the hospital. Across the hall, patients began filling Marnie's Lounge, one of the hospital's playrooms fully equipped with pool and air hockey tables. The excitement was palpable as the kids – many wearing their Leafs jerseys - awaited the arrival of their favourite players. As the Leafs filed into Marnie's Lounge, smiles spread across the face of every child, and every player.
Mason Raymond was especially humbled by the experience saying, "It's just great coming out here and being able to see the kids. It's something very special for us. Something so little as giving them a card, or saying hello, or a quick signature can change their day, or maybe their lives. As players we feel very privileged to be able to provide that service."
During the visit in Marnie's Lounge, every child had the opportunity to meet each Leaf, chat for a while, receive an autograph and even play a game of air hockey with their favourite player.
Susie Petro, Child Life Specialist at SickKids spoke to the importance of building positive memories in the hospital.
"All the kids love it, every year. It's a really special time for us, because it's positive memory building," said Petro, "There aren't a lot of positive things that happen here at the hospital but this is a positive day. We get to play with the Leafs and hang out with them."
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been visiting SickKids Hospital annually since the late 1940's and it's easy to see why for many of the players, this is their favourite community event of the year.
"It's interesting to have compassion for people and to bring some bright, positive energy into people's lives who may be down," says Paul Ranger, "I think everyone's been in that spot and we can all really appreciate it. When you really feel that, it's something special to know that I can provide that for some people, especially kids. It's pretty cool."
After spending an hour with the children, it was time for the players to say their goodbyes and continue on to other wards of the hospital to visit with patients unable to make it to Marnie's Lounge. Throughout the course of the day, the Leafs travelled every ward of SickKids and distributed gifts to over 350 patients and their families.
Jonathan Bernier felt significantly impacted by the visit.
"You always feel weird after you leave the hospital," Bernier says, "Sometimes you have bad days at the rink, and you feel like this is nothing compared to these kids and what they go through. It's special for the kids and they're very excited, and we can give them a little hope. The weird thing is they give us something too, so it's pretty special."
Click here to view more photos from the Leafs' SickKids Hospital visit