WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals spread some holiday cheer by visiting pediatric patients and at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital on Wednesday.
Wearing elf hats and reindeer antlers, the players split into groups with one half spending time with in-patients while the other half participated in interactive holiday art activities and a Flashes of Hope photo shoot. Flashes of Hope is a non-profit organization that raises money for pediatric cancer and uses photography to help children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses change the way they see themselves.
"We try to give them our emotions, our happiness, and we hope we're going to change their lives. That's why we do this," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "We appreciate them supporting us and we try to support them."
After helping place holiday ornaments on a cardboard gingerbread house, forwards Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller and Brendan Leipsic posed for photos with some of the children and their families in a makeshift Flashes of Hope studio. Meanwhile Ovechkin, forward Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler sat down at a table with some other children and showed off their drawing skills.
"The kids are really used to coming here and being creative, so they just come to their cancer doctor and jump in and make some art," said Tracy Councill, director of Tracy's Kids art therapy program. "I can't get over seeing the players over there drawing Star Wars stuff and everything with the kids. It's really great. The kids really get a kick out of it."
Peter Kress, a 13-year-old former patient who began treatment at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital when he was 5, impressed Ovechkin with his drawing of the Capitals captain, complete with the reindeer antlers he was wearing.
"It was so awesome," Kress said of meeting Ovechkin and getting him to autograph his Capitals jersey.
Although 7-month-old Clark Durand, who underwent a life-saving liver transplant a month ago, won't remember getting his photo taken with Vrana when he's older, his father, Bart Durand, plans to show him the photos and tell him all about the Capitals visit someday.
"This is great, especially around the holidays," Bart Durand said. "We're big fans, so we watch all the games. To see them in person is pretty surreal."