It’s the holiday season and the Bylsma family is in the holiday spirit.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma and his wife Mary Beth presented a $19,900 check to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation Thursday morning.
“For our family, whenever we come to a city we get in touch with the Children’s Hospital is a necessity for our family, for our son’s health situation,” Dan said. “We’ve established a relationship with Children’s Hospital for a number of years now. We have participated in events with the hospital. This summer with our hockey camp and the Pittsburgh Penguins, to be able to donate the proceeds from the camp to Children’s Hospital was something our family wanted to do and is glad to do.”
|Coach Bylsma shakes Will's hand after a fun game of air hockey |
The Bylsmas handed the donation check over to Greg Barrett, president of Children’s Hospital, and Joe Walton, Children’s Hospital board member, inside the Lemieux Sibling Center.
“I go beyond the financial commitment – which is very large and a wonderful gift for us – but just the fact that they come in and spend time with kids,” Barrett said of the Bylsmas. “These are kids that could be here for months. Some of them spend their entire youth in and out of the hospital. (Athletes and coaches) come in and do this behind-the-scenes, they all do. They spend hours with the kids without the media and everybody seeing. That means so much to the families and kids.”
“To be involved and participate, not just a monetary sum or donation, but to participate with the kids and be here with the families is a big part of it for myself, my wife and our son Bryan,” Dan said. “We’re happy to make a donation, but we’re equally as happy to participate with Children’s Hospital. We participate as a family. We’ve been here at times making crafts and hanging out with the kids and have participated as well in other events.”
Following the check presentation, the Bylsmas spent some time with some of the patients in the Lemieux Sibling Center. Eight-year-old Will challenged the coach to a game of air hockey. After a spirited effort, Dan lost to Will.
“I don’t take losing very well,” he jokingly told the youngster.
The Bylsmas then spent a couple hours in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Teen Lounge, where they mingled with patients.
Dan watched the movie “Elf” with Emily, 18, and her boyfriend Derrick, shot pool with Erica, 19, and Robert, 21, and even Skyped with Santa Claus. Dan made sure to remind Santa of his address, just in case.
Mary Beth chatted with Robert, Erica and Ashley, 18, while the three painted arts and crafts.
Erica even tried to get Dan to join Twitter. “Even the Pope is on Twitter,” she notified him. The coach warmed to her personality. Erica and Dan each posted a little note on the room’s “Twitter Board.”
For the Bylsmas, their experience with children and young adults at Children’s Hospital is a personal one.
“For us, the health of our son is something we’ve had to monitor for a long time,” Dan said. “For a long time we didn’t know what we were dealing with. He has an immune deficiency problem. The care we’ve gotten in Pittsburgh has personally affected our family. What they have here in Pittsburgh is exceptional with Children’s Hospital, the care they have for the kids, the care for the families, from the doctors to Austin’s Playroom with the Lemieux Foundation participation, to (the Lemieux Sibling Center), it’s truly a remarkable place. We’ll continue to be involved in a lot of different ways with Children’s Hospital.”
The Bylsmas donated the proceeds from the coach’s hockey school – Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp featuring Dan Bylsma – held this past summer at CONSOL Energy Center.
“We’ve been doing our hockey camp for 19 years,” Dan said. “In Michigan we did it for the first 18 years. The last several years the proceeds have gone to a charity of our choosing. This year going into the school we decided that Children’s Hospital was the charity we wanted to donate. It’s part of the relationship we’ve had since we’ve been in town.”