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Red Wings' Children's Hospital visit spreads smiles

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Natalie Yale, 7, of Marysville chats with Gustav Nyquist, right, while Luke Glendening sits nearby.
Riley Sheahan signs a calendar with his photo on it for hospital patient Michael Williamson, 6, of Lincoln Park.
Luke Glendening poses for a photo with Shy'Quan Stafford.

Detroit — Hannah Williamson was having a rough day.

She found out she needed another surgery on her ears, just before the holiday season is about to begin.

And for a 7-year-old, that's about as bad as it can get.

But as Hannah and her mother, Sunni, came downstairs Tuesday near the lobby of Children's Hospital, the Red Wings players and coaching staff were playing with kids, handing out gifts, and trying to make the kids smile.

"It was pretty cool to see them," Hannah said with a smile. "I was surprised to see them. It was good news."

Sunni Williamson said the family watches Red Wings games often, and on this particular disappointing day, it was uplifting to see the players trying to bring some happiness into the children's lives.

"We weren't expecting anything like this," Sunni said. "We got the bad news (about the ear surgery), but once we came down here it was pretty fun."

For Red Wings players, who seemed to be smiling as much as the kids, this was time well spent.

"This is probably one of my favorite things to do," Gustav Nyquist said. "It's great to go in there and make them smile, even if it's only for a day or a second, just so they can forget about what they have to go through each and every day.

"It's tough for them. We're excited when we can go in there and help them out."

Players say the trip to Children's Hospital puts life in perspective, and the opportunity to put a smile on a child's face is a feeling that can't be matched.

Coach Mike Babcock was working hard before the team arrived, trying to make any child within his voice break into laughter.

"These kids are special," said Babcock, who hosts kids at every game at Joe Louis Arena. "We're going to put a few smiles on. We're not going to do any research and we're not medical doctors or nurses, but we can put a few smiles on and that's a positive."

You can see the difference at the hospital when a team like the Red Wings arrives to lend a hand, chief operating officer Chad Grant said.

"Sometimes it's a tough environment and the things kids have to do are a little difficult," Grant said. "The amount of cheer and joy with the players coming in helps the kids take their minds off a lot of things we do in the hospital."