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All Aboard the Teddy Bear Express


Chris Cooper (93), Deuce Lutui (76), Ross Kolodziej (96) and Cardinals cheerleader Inessa visit a patient during the Teddy Bear Express event Tuesday morning.

The sign at the foot of one teen's bed warned visitors to be careful of the gray wires, since they were attached to the child's brain.

It's a jarring existence for any kid.

But despite the hardship, his face lit up Tuesday when Cardinals offensive linemen Deuce Lutui and defensive linemen Chris Cooper and Ross Kolodziej entered his room, where the behemoths posed for pictures, signed autographs and handed out a special Cardinal-red teddy bear.

The stop was one of many for the trio, who were part of the annual Teddy Bear Express at Phoenix Children's Hospital. The goal is to hand out the teddy bears – which bore the name and number of the players involved – and give some personal time to kids in the hospital around the holidays.

"It is heartwarming," Lutui said. "It is good to see these kids and kind of brighten their day. Some It is good to give them a little kick in their life and just uplift them in their trials right now. It is a joy to see the comfort we bring them, and also their parents. I had a few parents come up to me and tell me it helped their day."

Tight end Troy Bienemann and wide receiver Jerheme Urban joined Cooper, Lutui and Kolodziej at the hospital -- with Kolodziej painting his beard a Santa-esque white for the occasion.

Alice Whisenhunt, the wife of head coach Ken Whisenhunt, also was part of the group, which included a pair of Cardinals cheerleaders and mascot Big Red. (For a photo gallery, click here).

Tuesday afternoon, kicker Neil Rackers, running back Marcel Shipp, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and safety Matt Ware visited Gompers Habilitation Center – a place for adults and children with developmental disabilities – with the same intent.

The children the players saw were in various states of health. Some were able to get out of bed to pose for their pictures. Some were in much dire straits, unable to be touched or forcing visitors to wear masks.

"The mystery of this life is that we are given all kinds of different situations and some of these kids are worse than most," Lutui said. "We have to acknowledge that as professional athletes in this community. They can see we are taking time out of our day to do this and it is very rewarding for us to give this kind of charity.

"It enriches our lives as well and makes sure we are thankful for our lives, that we are healthy to be able to go out and perform."

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 12/11/07. Updated 12/12/07.

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