PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — You could call it an All-Star Christmas visit. Pittsburgh Penguins were delivering presents and smiles to patients at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. It is a holiday tradition that dates back to the ’70s.
Pittsburgh’s hockey stars took on the role of Santa’s helpers. Sidney Crosby, Matt Murray, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and more delivered presents and smiles to the patients at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“We all like coming here and trying to cheer them up and make their day,” Phil Kessel said.
Six-year-old Bryson Ackermann is just one of the patients whose day was made.
“He’s just been in and out of the hospital and rehab and then the hospital and rehab and now back to the hospital. When he found out that the Penguins were here today, he lit up,” Jill Ackermann, of South Fayette, said.
Little did Bryson know, his favorite Penguin would come to his room.
“Bryson’s favorite Penguin is Phil Kessel and he was here today,” Ackermann said.
“That’s nice and I’m happy about that, obviously,” Kessel said when told he is Bryson’s favorite player.
Kessel and Crosby agree they get the most out of the annual visit.
“It brings a smile to our face when we see that they’re happy and hopefully have their mind off of whatever’s going on here,” Crosby said.
Four-year-old Porter Harmon is another child who probably does not know how much he is inspiring the players.
“I liked seeing them. They were fun,” Porter Harmon said.
Porter’s parents, Holly and Mark, know you can’t put a value on a heart-felt visit like this.
“You see them all the time. They’re great hockey players, but being in this environment and knowing that they are giving back, I think, is that piece that is so important in this world,” Holly Harmon, of Wexford, said.
“As a hockey fan, I mean we were at the game last night. And you know, you see Sidney Crosby on the ice and he’s a legend. But he’s also a real person and a caring person, so that’s really touching for us as parents,” Mark Harmon said.
There were autographs, photos and high-fives, but most of all, inspiration from the children.
“Just seeing how strong they are and the attitude that they have, I think that always kind of stays with me when I leave,” Crosby said.
Hopefully, the memories will stay with the children long after they leave the hospital.