PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Those who play for the Pittsburgh Penguins are accustomed to making special visits on behalf of the community. Sometimes, even their coach finds time to reach out.

“I’m Mike Johnston, coach of the Penguins.”

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Coach Johnston talks with a cancer patient as he signs a Penguins hat for her. He and his assistant coaches visited Hillman Cancer Center Monday morning.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re facing adversity during the year,” he said. “But there’s no comparison. They always talk about how exciting it is to meet us. But for us, their attitude, the way the approach things, it’s really inspiring. It is.”

Each patient gets a signed hat. The visit brought smiles, and even a laugh or two. The fight against cancer is one of many charities funded by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

Visits like this can give cancer patients a brief respite from what they’re going through. But Dr. Stanley Marks, chairman of the UPMC Cancer Center, says it can do even more than that.

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“When we get these kinds of visits from athletes it does wonders for our patients. Frankly, sometimes it does more for them than I can,” Dr. Marks says.

Leukemia patient Joy Clayton has added reason to support the Pens.

“When I came to the hospital, I got to stay in the Mario Lemieux room,” she recalled. “And it was the most spacious, wonderful room.”

Patients may be inspired by visits from coaches and players. But Coach Johnston says it’s a two-way street.

“I know talking to our players, they have a chance during the year to go to Children’s Hospital on several occasions, and they feel inspired when they walk away,” he says.

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