Few things in life are worse than being sick, injured and hospitalized, and while nothing replaces the feeling of getting to head home healthy, a pair of New York Jets defenders did their best to provide a temporary escape for the patients of Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown, NJ, Tuesday morning.
"My biggest goal going into the visit was trying to make kids smile," CB Darrin Walls said, "and make them feel happier, appreciated. I know a lot of those kids have been there for a week or so, and they probably haven't smiled since they've been in there. A lot of kids don't like hospitals or they're afraid, so that was my biggest goal, trying to just make someone's day and put a smile on their face."
After spending well over an hour walking door to door throughout the many hospital wings interacting with patients and their families, posing for pictures, signing autographs and handing out Jets stickers, pencils and keychains, it's safe to say that Walls, accompanied by LB Troy Davis, accomplished his goal.
"It was great just going around, talking to the kids," Davis said. "It didn't feel like a charity event, it was more like just hanging out. I felt comfortable talking to the kids, getting to know them, and it was a great experience. I just wanted to leave them with something positive and some good vibes."
Given the wide range of ages, illnesses and interests among the many patients, Davis and Walls made sure to treat everyone as unique individuals, with conversations ranging from XBOX to culinary tips to beating the Bills.
"I always try to get to know everyone," Davis said, "because each one of those kids had a different story. With each kid, we didn't have a bunch of time, but in the amount of time I had, I just wanted to get to know them and make them feel special because they are."
Peterson Jean-Marie, 22, was one of several dozen patients whose day — or "probably my whole week" — was made as a result of the Jets' hospital visit.
"I hadn't left my room for a couple of days," Peterson said, "but I was happy to hear they were coming so I was like, 'Yeah, I'll leave the room.' It's the first time that I've met someone famous, and I didn't know how to react at first but they're really cool guys. It's amazing that they would come to a hospital to see the children, especially for me being sick and stuff."
There's no telling how influential yesterday afternoon's hospital visit by Darrin and Troy was on the hospitalized children like Peterson, but it's clear that the everlasting impact was a two-way street.
"Sometimes you take for granted things like your health," Davis said, "and these kids are battling kids that some of us have never been through, and for that they're tough and I commend them. The fact that they wake up and they're still smiling and they're happy and they still want to live everyday childhood lives is great."
"I think a lot of times you go into in thinking you're helping them out," Walls said, "but I think it gives us a chance to really look back on life and see how easy we have it compared to some other people."