WASHINGTON -- John Carlson celebrated this July 4 differently than he had in years past.
That's because the Washington Capitals defenseman had a special guest for the day - the Stanley Cup.
Carlson was born in Natick, Massachusetts and grew up in Colonia, New Jersey, but he lives in the Washington area year-round after playing nine seasons for the Capitals. So after they won the Cup for the first time in their 43-season history, it was a no-brainer for Carlson to spend his day with it in the place he will continue to consider home after signing an eight-year contract on June 24.
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"I think everyone around and my family is going to celebrate it the same no matter where I was," he said Wednesday. "But it's nice to be able to enjoy it with the fans as well and to do pretty special stuff like this."
Carlson was the first Capitals player to have his day with the Cup. The 28-year-old could've chosen to spend a quiet, private Independence Day with family and friends, but he wanted to share some of it with the fans, and do some good in the process.
Carlson's day began by bringing the Cup to the Bethesda Fire Station 6 in Maryland for some photos with firemen and staff there. Then it was off to a pep rally and visit with patients and staff at Children's National Health System in Washington.
Carlson was greeted with cheers when he wheeled the Cup into the Costco Wholesale Atrium. He hoped the visit would bring some joy to the children and their families.
"The kids that are in the hospital on July 4 probably really need to be there and [it was nice] to be able to bring smiles and enjoy ourselves and celebrate the holiday," Carlson said. "Also the workers, they are angels too. They take time, they take holidays to work tirelessly on certain things."
After a brief reception, Carlson posed for photos with the Cup with patients and their families and then sat down for an interview with some children on the in-hospital radio station.
Among the questions asked were, "Have you ever lost a tooth?" (No, but he's chipped a couple), "What's your favorite children's animated movie?" (Lion King) and, "What's the hardest slap shot you've ever blocked?" (Zdeno Chara).
After that, Carlson brought the Cup upstairs so children who weren't healthy enough to attend the pep rally could see it.
"We're just proud and excited to have John Carlson here," said Kurt Newman, Children's National's president and chief executive officer. "You just can't imagine what that means for a family that maybe their child is fighting for his life, and they know that we're behind them."
Carlson and his wife, Gina, have two young sons; Lucca, 3, and 2-month-old Rudy, and their family pediatrician, Caroline Van Vleck, is on the board of directors at Children's National, Health System, which is ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The Carlsons have a great appreciation for the hospital and the work being done there.
Video: Carlson brings Stanley Cup to children's hospital
"Both of my sons have been here at certain points for different things and we just love the atmosphere and what they do," Carlson said. "I just saw that they're ranked top five children's hospitals in the U.S. That's no slouch. That's amazing stuff that they do here. So anything we can do to give back, we try to do."
After the hospital visit, Carlson returned to his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland where the Cup was the star attraction of the Kenwood 4th of July Parade. Then, he took it to an outdoor fundraiser for the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation in Bethesda.
The Mosier Foundation funds research to find a cure to diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas tumors, a rare childhood brain cancer. It was founded by Jenny and Mark Mosier after their 6-year-old son, Michael, died in 2015.
The Carlsons have done events with the Mosier Foundation before, but Jenny Mosier was stunned when the Carlsons called last week to offer to bring the Cup to a fundraiser. With the help of local businesses and volunteers, the event was put together in 10 days, and 1,000 tickets were sold. Jenny Mosier said the event raised more than $100,000 from pre-purchased ticket sales alone.
"We were fortunate to meet the Carlsons a few years ago after we started our foundation and after my son Michael passed away, and they've been continuous supporters of the foundation's work and they have gone above and beyond several times to do things both for the foundation and for families who are facing this tragic disease also," Mosier said. "They do a lot of things under the radar, not for credit, not for publicity, just to be the kind and caring people that they are."
Carlson planned to spend the rest of his day with family and friends, including a private dinner at a restaurant where they'd have a good view of the fireworks. But he was glad to be able to share the Cup with others and see their reactions to it.
"It's about the fans too," he said. "They get joy seeing the Cup and seeing me and all that, and that's awesome too. It's just a good mix of both and doing the right thing and doing a fun thing. We're all enjoying ourselves and raising a lot of money, so that's kind of the best of both worlds."