Kris Versteeg and Niklas Hjalmarsson walked into a family life center filled with kids and parents at Lurie Children’s Hospital. The two handed out toys, signed a few autographs and, in Versteeg’s case, enjoyed a little coloring-book time.
“Not inside the lines. My mother has the artistic flair. I don’t have much of it,” said Versteeg. “The community gives so much to us. It’s only right we give a lot back.”
The Blackhawks were giving on Thursday, as Versteeg, Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad handed out toys at Lurie Children’s Hospital. The toys were collected at the Blackhawks’ first three home game in December. Half were handed out at Lurie today while the other half will be brought to North Shore in Evanston on another visit.
Kane and Saad, toting a wagon full of toys, visited some patients in their rooms.
“To be able to bring the toys, pass them out and see the smiles on their faces, it was fun,” Saad said. “It’s definitely (humbling). We do a lot of things, and this is one of my favorites. To give back to the kids, see how excited they get, it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
The kids’ parents appreciated the visit, too. Christopher Clausen’s son is in the hospital, but he was too sick to come down to the room. Clausen said they made sure to pick him up a toy.
“It lifts our spirits as parents,” he said. “Being in the hospital with your son in critical condition is stressful. I’m as excited as the kids are, probably more excited. The boys love to watch (hockey) on TV with me and we’ll go to games in Rockford. It’s great the team does this for the community and it’s heartwarming to see them out there with the kids.”
Jessie Mason of Morrison, whose six-month-old daughter is at Lurie, agreed.
“I saw one little guy who had the biggest smile on his face and said, ‘This is awesome!’” Mason said. “It means a lot to the kids. They’re in their rooms a lot, and to do something that’s exciting for them is great. It puts a smile on their faces.”
For the Blackhawks, it was a day of greeting, smiling and even a little coloring. Most important, it was a day of giving.
“The kids are always your favorite fans because of the excitement they bring,” Kane said. “It’s nice to come here and bring them some presents, try to give them some excitement and happiness in their day. I think today was pretty successful.”