Lakers Deliver Smiles to Children's Hospital
When Lakers players Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown arrived at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, their goal was as significant as it was simple: make some kids smile.
And sure enough, as part of the Lakers “A Season of Giving” campaign, wide-mouthed grins were easy to spot as Gasol, Brown and the Laker Girls visited young patients to hand out presents, take pictures and spend a bit of time with some special children.
“We’re just happy to be here and have a chance to brighten the days of some courageous kids,” said the Lakers backup guard. “They’re going through some tough times right now, but we want to let them know that we’re thinking about them.”
Associate Vice Chancellor and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System Dr. David T. Feinberg explained the importance of the Lakers’ visit.
“These kids are going through absolutely the most terrible part of their lives, and (having the Lakers visit) is like a dream come true,” said Dr. Feinberg. “Our goal is to make sure that every one of our patients gets care that is second to none; to make them happy from a psycho-social standpoint is crucial, and this fits right into that perfectly.”
Gasol, who went through a year of medical school in his native Spain as he began playing professional basketball, has a particularly well-developed understanding of the importance of such visits.
“Some of the families are going through tough situations in their lives, and this special time of year is a good time to come and give them our support,” he said. “Hopefully we can cheer the kids up a little bit.”
The excited reactions of the children (see photo gallery) were evident throughout the afternoon, but as Feinberg explained, just a few minutes with Gasol and Brown can actually have a much greater impact.
“From a medical standpoint, just as steroid levels and stress can make you feel worse, joy, happiness or excitement can release hormones within your body that actually help with healing,” said Feinberg. “So we see this as an important part of the healing process, as much as we do with the medicines and the technology or the love and care that our nurses give. It’s absolutely medically crucial to recovery.”
Pretty cool, right?
“It just takes a little bit of our time but can make a big difference in their days,” added Gasol, who’s been very involved with hospitals since beginning his career in Memphis. “We couldn’t be happier to do it.”
That the Lakers are able to do it is in part thanks to East West Bank, the presenting sponsor of the team’s “A Season of Giving,” which focuses on spreading holiday cheer and providing assistance to thousands of less fortunate children and adults in the community. Events this year included a Thanksgiving celebration for military members and their families at Lucille’s Bar-B-Que restaurant in Torrance, a book drive to benefit EVERYBODY WINS! Los Angeles, and the annual Lakers holiday party for children.
Yet and still, there really is nothing like making a kid smile.
“Just imagine, one of the kids turns the TV on tomorrow night and (Gasol or Brown) is playing,” concluded Feinberg. “The guy that was in their room. It’s pretty special.”
No argument here.