akronchildrens.org

Surprise visit from Cleveland Browns players lifts patients’ spirits

“Oh my” was the quote of the day as patients welcomed three very tall and very large Cleveland Browns players into their rooms at Akron Children’s Hospital on June 19.

The players – defensive tackles  John Hughes and Billy Winn as well as linebacker Craig Robertson – are new to the 2012 Cleveland Browns roster. Patients, staff and hospital visitors in Akron Children’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders were full of smiles and laughs during the young players’ stay.  There was even some Madden NFL playing.

The surprise visit was thanks to collaboration among Phil Lopez, event chair for the LoPen Charity Golf Outing, Jeffery Hord, MD, medical director of the Showers Family Center, and Lopez’s friend Vince Calo, president and General Counsel of Blaster Sports & Media and NFL agent to Hughes.

“Hughes was coming today and we all decided to tag along,” Robertson said. “I’ve always heard stories about players going to visit the children, and I just wanted to be a part of the experience. I want to see someone smile no matter what the age, whether they are 2 years old or 50.”

The 10th annual LOPen Charity Golf Outing on June 23 and the concert event on June 22 help support the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. Other visitors will be stopping by the hospital including Lou Petrozza from the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen,” Brother Trouble, country music artists and winner of Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star,” and Lilian Garcia, musician and WWE Diva of “SmackDown.”

The Showers center is one of the largest in northern Ohio that takes care of children and teens with cancer and blood disorders. The events have raised more than $300,000 for the hospital, and funds are used to provide support to the area of greatest need. This has included expanding the stem cell transplant program and assisting families with financial hardships.

“Giving back to the community means a lot to me,” Hughes said. “Growing up, I didn’t have as much as everyone else but being able to give something to somebody feels great.”

Even Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans welcomed and enjoyed the players’ visit as they all happily posed for photos and laughed about the rivalry.

“Seeing the kids makes it worthwhile and knowing you’re helping somebody out when they are going through a rough time is extremely rewarding,” Robertson said.  “It’s important for the kids to know somebody else has their back.”