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Cardinals Brighten Phoenix Children's Hospital After Paw Express Visit

Team distributes stuffed 'Hank' dolls to sick kids

Linebacker Dennis Gardeck (45) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (33) visit a patient Tuesday at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Linebacker Dennis Gardeck (45) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (33) visit a patient Tuesday at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Normally, seeing the punter doesn't bring a lot of joy given the nature of his job.

But Cardinals punter Blake Gillikin brought plenty of smiles to kids faces on Tuesday morning.

Gillikin, seven of his Cardinals teammates, Nicole Bidwill, the Cardinals cheerleaders, and Big Red, attended the team's Paw Express Event at the Phoenix Children's Hospital.

"It's really gratifying to be here," Gillikin said. "I love to do this. It's great to provide any spark of joy or relief for people going through this experience."

Every player made bedside visits throughout the entire hospital, spreading some of the holiday spirit with the kids and their families along the way. They gave away some gifts and were asked plenty of questions about their experience in the NFL. They also went to a game room and played some arcade classics.

Gillikin was joined by Jacqui, one of the Cardinals cheerleaders. Multiple girls told her that they also would love to become a cheerleader when they become older.

It was the first time that the Cardinals were able to host the Paw Express Event since the COVID pandemic. The organizations repeated efforts to make an impact in the community is one of the many things of which Bidwill is proud.

"It means so much to be able to come and just lift their spirits a little bit and put a smile on their face," Bidwill said. "Just let them think about something else other than the problems that they're going through right now and just give them a little break."

She said that the players were amazing with the patients and their families, adding that the players "really care about our community and they really care about people."

While the players drew in a lot of attention, Bidwill's therapy dog, Hank, truly stole the show. He walked around the hospital and was being pet by everybody.

"I'm so lucky to have Hank and I just can't believe I have him," Bidwill said. "I love sharing him with everybody at this hospital and all throughout the community in Arizona. He's a wonderful therapy dog and really reaches people and has an ability to connect human beings."

Each patient also received a stuffed animal of Hank dressed in a Cardinals jersey, something that made the kids' eyes light up.

Gillikin only became a member of the organization towards the end of September after the Cardinals signed him. Despite not having much time to fully immerse himself into the community, with Christmas and the holiday season around the corner, he was thrilled to attend Tuesday's event.

"Whether it's handing out a stuffed animal or getting a smile out of the kids, that's what makes it worth it," Gillikin said. "Holidays are a time for being with family and having some sort of joy in their life, so hopefully they were able to get a little piece of that."

Images of the Arizona Cardinals visiting Phoenix Children's Hospital to spread cheer during the holiday season