DETROIT — The Red Wings began the 2014 holiday season by visiting the Children’s Hospital of Michigan on Tuesday. The entire team, along with coach Mike Babcock, was in attendance, making room-to-room visits throughout the hospital.
“This is probably one of my favorite things to do for the kids,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “That’s the big thing. It’s great to go in there and make them smile if it’s only for a day or a second even, just to see them forget about what they have to go through each and every day. It’s tough for them so we’re all very excited, we think it’s great that we can go there and help them out.”
The visit began with a meet and greet in the Red Wings Play Zone, a special area in the Children’s Hospital lobby for patients and families featuring a home-ice replica seating area and interactive educational games on the wall resembling a Zamboni. Players met with patients in the play zone, signed autographs and posed for pictures.
Center Riley Sheahan jumped right into the mix and started playing games with some of the patients on the interactive wall.
“They probably know more about this kind of stuff than me,” he said. “But it's fun just joking around with them and I think just seeing them laugh is the biggest thing.”
The team split into five groups and made visits to children throughout the hospital. Players went room-to-room through the floors and delivered goodie bags to all in-patient children.
“I think its pretty special the whole team is here,” Sheahan said. “When you can come in here together and it's definitely an eye opener to see what some of the kids go through and definitely teaches you not to take things for granted. You can kind of learn that as a group.”
The Wings support the Children’s Hospital of Michigan through various programs throughout the year. Aside from the annual holiday visit, the Red Wings Wish Club has raised more than $330,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation (CHM Foundation). The Wish Club allows fans to submit special messages that are displayed on the Jumbotron during any home game by making a donation to the CHM Foundation. Since 1995, the program has covered the costs of the Family Center adjacent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the Red Wings Play Zone, rehabilitation equipment and a new pair of MRI goggles to help patients reduce anxiety when undergoing an MRI screening.
“We’re good at what we do taking care of patients,” said Chad Grant, COO of the DMC Children’s Hospital, “but sometimes it’s a tough environment and kids have to do things that are a little difficult. The amount of cheer and joy with the players coming in helps the kids take their mind off of a lot of things we do in the hospital.”
For Babcock, the trip was a chance to reunite with some familiar faces. Since 2005, the coach has hosted a patient from Children’s Hospital at every home game at Joe Louis Arena. A frequent visitor to the hospital, Babcock said this trip was particularly unique having the entire team on-hand.
“It’s great, when I come here, I’m the coach, what’s the coach?," he said. "They want to see Nikey and Z and the guys. It’s an opportunity for them to be around great athletes and people like that bring joy to (the patients’) lives.”