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Pacers Visit Two Local Hospitals

by Scott Agness

February 13, 2013, 11:00 AM

One Vietnam veteran had less than two weeks to live. Another one said the end of his road was around the bend. Those are just two of the hundreds of patient stories at the Roudebush VA Medical Center, where a handful of Indiana Pacers players and representatives visited on Tuesday evening for about two hours.

Photos from the Pacers' Visit to Roudebush VA Medical Center »

Players Sam Young, Ben Hansbrough, and Lance Stephenson along with assistant coach Dan Burke, “Dr. Dunk” Darnell Hillman and Pacemate Megan were among those that interacted with patients at the hospital just about three miles northwest of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They all went through as many rooms as they could on the 7th and 8th level, giving away a gift bag, T-shirt, and freshly popped popcorn – just like at a game – plus autographs and photos at each stop along the way.

It's always difficult to see others in distress, especially when you are unable to help them in the ways they need most, which made the experience truly humbling yet beneficial for everyone involved. Most importantly, it was about impacting these patients’ lives in some way.

The stories weren’t all negative. One 20+ year veteran recently had surgery and his wife was positive about her spouse’s outlook. She pulled the guys aside in the hall for autographs and a group photo to make his day. A gentleman, who served in the Army for 33 years, immediately sprang up on his bed when he saw he had visitors. He congratulated the players on a job well done and said he follows every game.

The fourth stop along the way garnered the most laughs. While Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson signed a T-shirt and posed for a candid photo, the patient’s bubbly wife knew just how special this moment was. “Ohhhh, the grandkids are going to be mad,” she said with a grin.

Up north, head coach Frank Vogel, Jeff Pendergraph, Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson, Boomer and others had similar experiences with those at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. The only difference was the ages of the patients.

Visiting hospitals and helping those less fortunate is nothing new for these Pacers. Last month, while on a road trip in Memphis, seven players plus other staff members willingly spent their evening at the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

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