Football players visit sick children

Christmas in the hospital can be pretty drab for kids like Denise Farrar, 13, who wanted desperately to be home instead.

Hospitalized because of a respiratory condition she’s had since she was a toddler, which demands periods of round-the-clock care, Farrar was put in more of a festive mood after meeting some special Christmas day visitors at California Pacific Medical Center’s pediatric ward, where she was being cared for.

Football players from the Florida State University Seminoles and UCLA Bruins, in town for Wednesday’s Emerald Bowl game, made Christmas Day a little brighter for Farrar and other children in the ward by passing out goodies such as pompoms and socks.

“It’s awesome,” said Farrar, 13, who said she is quite a sports fan. “I didn’t want to stay here for Christmas, so this was cool.”

Donning team jerseys and smiles, six players from Florida State University, the first team to visit, made their way from room to room bringing gifts and yuletide greetings.

“It’s a pleasure to be with the kids,” said Emmanuel Dunbar, 21, defensive tackle for the team.

Wing Huang, 13, was in his room with his sister, Maple, clutching a T-shirt and socks he was given by Dunbar. Although Huang said he isn’t too much of a football fan, the visit still made his day.

“They said ‘Merry Christmas’ and gave me this stuff,” Huang said with a smile.

The pediatric unit of the medical center, which cares for kids and young adults from 2 years old to 21 years old, handles everything from respiratory problems to cystic fibrosis. Tom Renno, charge nurse for the ward, said Christmas visitors are relatively uncommon, but very welcome.

“It’s a constant battle to keep these kids [happy]. Some people just came off the street to drop off more gifts,” Renno said, pointing to a group of wrapped offerings dropped off for patients by a local mom.

Graham Gano, 19, a punter for the Seminoles originally from Scotland, said it was his first time doing this kind of charity work.

“We are very excited to be here. Hopefully we brightened [the children’s] day up. It’s good to see the smiles,” Gano said.

Rau Maisonet, a graduate assistant for the team, hoped that the trip to the pediatric ward made a lasting impression on the players.

“They’ve been blessed with talent,” Maisonet said. “They need to see that everyone is not as fortunate as they are, so it’s good to give back.”

The Emerald Bowl, which will take place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at AT&T Park, will feature the Florida State University Seminoles and the UCLA Bruins for the first time. Tickets are still available. For more information, visit www.emeraldbowl.org.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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