Bearing toys, stickers, autographs and, most importantly hugs, nine members of the Jets football team and Sesame Street's Elmo wandered the halls of St. Mary's Healthcare System for Children in Bayside last week hoping to bring some holiday cheer to the sick kids.
Tackle Ed Blanton, Tight End James Dearth, Linebacker Brad Kassell, Safety Andre Maddox, Defensive Lineman Rashad Moore, Wide Receiver Brad Smith, Safety Jamie Thompson, Running back Stacy Tutt, and Wide Receiver Wallace Wright carved out time on their day off to put smiles on the faces of kids with life-limiting illnesses.
"This is a great opportunity to spend some time with the kids and put smiles on some faces," said Brad Smith. "It has been a great day and I am glad to be here."
Hundreds of children in the NYC area will spend the holidays away from home due to illness, injury or chronic conditions that require long-term hospitalization. But, despite their hardships, the kids at St. Mary's Healthcare System had sunny dispositions as Jets players handed out toys and dolls and spent time playing and interacting with them.
One little boy, who sported Elmo slippers, couldn't believe his good fortune – not only did he receive toys from some of his favorite Jets players, but he got a huge hug from Sesame Street's very own life-size Elmo who accompanied the Jets from room to room.
"A lot of children with chronic medical problems are here for weeks to months to years and to be able to interact with stars and people that they see on TV is a wonderful experience for them and really brightens up the holiday season," said Edwin Simpser, Executive Vice President and COO, St. Mary's.
"It is all about giving and just being able to give your time more than anything," said James Dearth. "Kids look up to us and it is important to give our time to them."
"I hope they enjoy us coming out, just hanging out and spending some time with them," added Brad Kassell. "It is a real joy to come out here and see them smile."
The New York Jets are committed to giving back to the community through numerous initiatives and charitable partnerships. Jets players make several visits to hospitals throughout the tri-state area each year.