Hospital staff, sick children and their families got a big shiny morale boost at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) on Thursday.
Members of the Grey Cup-winning Montreal Alouettes spent hours bringing joy at the institution, signing autographs, taking photos and of course showing off one of the best trophies in sports.
“It’s been a hard time, but I really appreciate the visit,” mother Allyza Ganbia said after the Als visited her young daughter Olivia’s hospital room at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Even as her family lives through one of its darkest hours, the Als made them smile.
Five members of the Grey Cup-winning squad went room to room with the coveted prize, bringing light to the sombre moments of many.
“It just makes me feel so amazing to be able to give back to this amazing community,” said Alouettes defensive lineman Shawn Lemon, who was joined by Regis Cibasu, Louise-Philippe Bourassa, Frederic Chagnon and Tyson Philpot.
It wasn’t just patients and parents getting a boost, the Als spent time with hospital staff too.
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“I’m so proud of you guys,” superfan Glenn Dean said as the Als signed an autograph for him.
Dean said whenever he needs a pick-me-up, he watches the thrilling end of the Alouettes’ improbable championship win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, which culminated with Tyson Philpot catching the game-winning touchdown pass.
“I watch it over and over because no one thought they could do it, and they didn’t give up,” said Dean, research co-ordinator at the Courtois Cardiovascular Signature Program.
“The city is just uplifting us so much, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Philpot said.
Dean said he told the players he and other health-care workers draw inspiration from their perseverance.
“They’ve got the same attitude that we try to carry in here: never give up,” Dean said.
For staff who have had a rough go in the overburdened health system of late, seeing the football stars was a welcome change of pace.
“I’m so excited. This is a dream come true,” said Montreal Children’s Hospital administrative technician Rita Barrafato, who said she and her family are longtime fans.
“Our employees, our staff work really hard. This is just to thank them,” MUHC president Dr. Lucie Opatrny said.
The visit held particular meaning for Lemon, who said his nephew spent the first eight months of his life in a children’s hospital in Baltimore. Members of the family, including Lemon, stayed with the boy every night.
“I just understand the emotions of the families. You just want to bring a smile to their face and do anything you can do to bring some happiness and some joy to them,” he said.
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