Two Jets players took time out of their off-day schedule Tuesday to meet with children at Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown Memorial.
Wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, recipient the first touchdown pass of Mark Sanchez's NFL career at Houston on Sunday, brightened children's spirits along with defensive back James Ihedigbo. Both players provided signatures and handed out Jets stickers to excited children.
"The more you do, the more of your responsibility it is to give back," said Stuckey. "This was a great opportunity to give back and it's great when you go in and see people with smiles on their faces, just to make them feel better for just a little while. It's definitely great to give back."
Mike Wolski was there with his son, who was surprised by the appearance.
"He had no clue they were coming," Wolski said. "We actually walked by in the lobby and laughed as we turned around. I said, 'You'd better turn around. You're missing the Jets.' He got a kick out of it, he really did."
A couple of children were shy about approaching the much bigger Jets players. One child all but 3 years old wrote "Jets" on a piece of paper in preparation for their appearance but didn't want to spell it out loud in front of the players. His father and mother helped him along the process — "J-E-T-S" — and he agreed with excitement.
Another boy named Mina was not shy at all. Made for the camera, he stole the opportunity to grab the attention of the players.
"Hi, TV," he said. "Go Jets! Get one for the team." When asked if they would beat the Patriots, he said, "They'd better!"
"We come in and cheer them up and kind of make them feel that joy and privilege you feel as a kid," said Ihedigbo. "I feel that we're given such a great opportunity that you have to give to the kids and let them know that they're still kids and they're still important."
Kate Durlan is a child life specialist working at Goryeb. She is responsible for briefing the children when they first come in and couldn't imagine doing anything different.
"I try to make the place more child-friendly for the kids when they come in, say things in a language they can understand," she said. "We have lots of toys for the children — Nintendo, boardgames, foosball table, books. We encourage the kids to have fun."
Kevin, a teenager who is starting high school soon, just got a 52" television screen to watch the Jets games. He was given some encouragement from Stuckey on this next step in life.
"It can be hard but it'll be fun," Stuckey told Kevin. "Keep fighting. We applaud your courage."
Ellen Friedman is a tutor for the children from first to 12th grade. A former classroom teacher in Baltimore, she's worked for Goryeb for five years and found the transition to hospital work with children easy.
"Whatever they're missing in school, I try to really be a bridge for them between their normal lives and when they're here," she said. "Keep them plugged in to what they'll be doing so that they still feel like they're kids and still feel like themselves."
"In a way you guys do what we do," she said, "reminding kids that they're still kids."
Ihedigbo was thankful to the hospital staff and expressed the same sentiment back to Friedman.
"I look at kids that are in the hospital and fighting for their lives and their health and we're just out there playing football and that is something that is not life and death for us," said Ihedigbo.
"It's a privilege for us. To see kids like that out here fighting for something that is so important to them, it makes it easy for us to go on the field and do what we do."