Lyle Sendlein tries to coax a high-five from a patient during Tuesday's "Teddy Bear Express" event.
It's not easy being stuck in a hospital bed during the holiday season. On Tuesday, several members of the Cardinals organization tried to make the stay a little more tolerable for patients at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Players, cheerleaders, mascot Big Red, Nicole Bidwill, and her therapy dog, Barney, went room-to-room to visit dozens of children during the annual 'Teddy Bear Express' outing. They handed out stuffed bears and hats, signed autographs, posed for pictures and chatted with the pediatric patients and their families.
"As a parent, I can't imagine having to go through a child being sick," center Lyle Sendlein said. "That's why we hope to come in here and, even if it's for two minutes, put a smile on the kid's face and maybe help them be distracted from what they're going through."
Sendlein and guard Earl Watford teamed up with Big Red to bring some cheer to the fifth floor. In one room, a 15-year-old boy was watching a Cardinals television segment when Watford's name was brought up on the broadcast, eliciting smiles all around.
In another, an energetic toddler was happy to talk to the players and Big Red for a little while, but soon his attention flipped to 'Lion King' on the TV. As the players readied to leave, the patient's mom told him to use his manners.
"Thanks, Cardinals," he said. And then, still wrapped up in the movie: "Thanks, Simba."
Big Red made use of a vacant wheelchair as the group traveled to a new room, cruising up and down a hallway. He got too fancy at one point, crashing to the ground after trying to lean back and balance on two wheels. Videotape of the incident soon made its rounds, to the delight of nurses and visitors.
Bidwill, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and guard Mike Gibson were paired up on the eighth floor. Barney, a St. Bernard, plopped down on several of the beds, cozying up his 160-pound frame to many of the children.
"We saw one patient today that is here because he was attacked by a dog," Bidwill said. "It was pretty severe. It was kind of nice because the parents said, 'Would you please bring Barney in because we want a positive reaction with the dog.' They don't want their child to be scared of dogs. That was pretty special."
Quarterbacks Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley, punter Dave Zastudil and long snapper Mike Leach also made the rounds. Zastudil said the outing certainly puts things in perspective for the players.
"You look at some of these kids and they're fighting for their lives, fighting just to be here tomorrow," he said. "We go out and play a sport for a living and have fun with it. To come back here really humbles you. It just makes you feel like every day you wake up you just appreciate life, especially what you do (as a career)."