Former Redskin Lorenzo Alexander spent this past season playing for the Arizona Cardinals, but despite the miles that separate him from Washington, he still has a place in his heart for the city.
“I played here for seven years,” Lorenzo told me on Thursday, in town for a charity event. “The community supported me while I was here and this became home for me. I still feel the need to come back and support it and help the kids in any way I can.”
Alexander, along with Redskins Josh Morgan and Kedric Golston, former Redskin Oshiomogho Atogwe and Falcons guard Justin Blalock, spent Thursday visiting pediatric patients at Georgetown Hospital and personally delivering gift baskets filled with games, crafts, toys and books to the hospitalized children. The deliveries in Washington, part of a nationwide effort called Baskets of Hope sponsored by FedEx, were just some of many baskets delivered to patients in more than 20 cities.
After spending time interacting with some of the patients and their families at a get-together, Alexander and company took a tour of the pediatric wing, delivering baskets to the patients who couldn’t make it to the party. One of the first stops was to the room of 11-year-old Zavier Price, who was being treated for sever migraines.
Price, born premature at two pounds, has had a lifetime of medical issues. Heart surgery as a baby left him with a pacemaker that was finally removed when he was six. He now plays running back for his team in Marlboro. When asked about his running style, he immediately gave a pretty good description: “Alfred Morris mixed with Barry Sanders.”
Zavier, along with the other children in the wing, were told there was a surprise coming that day, but weren’t clued in to what it was.
“I was really surprised,” said Zavier, who recognized Morgan before the others. It wasn’t long before the young Redskins fan let his feelings for the Dallas Cowboys be known.
“As long as it’s not Dallas. I do not like Dallas,” he said, when learning Blalock played for the Falcons. “If you like Dallas, go live in Dallas.”
Also surprised was 13-year-old Chelsea Krzywdik, who was being treated for seizures and was so stunned by her visitors that she began to cry.
“It’s so nice that they do that,” said Marnie Krzywdik, Chelsea’s mom who admitted that she and her daughter were Ravens fans. “It makes you forget what team you’re a fan of or not a fan of. They’re just people, and that’s what makes it nice.”
The presence of Blalock, who has no personal connection to D.C., didn’t go unnoticed.
“If he took time out of his schedule to come in here and say hi to her, it wouldn’t matter what team he was from,” said Marnie.
Blalock, who made the visit while in town for the Watkins Award ceremony, came at the request of Alexander but acknowledges that he took more away from it than just a favor to a friend.
“I do enjoy things like this, and he’s a good friend and it’s a good cause,” he said. “But some of the reactions we got from the kids, you’re not gonna get that feeling anywhere else.”
That sentiment seemed to echo throughout the day. The visitors were seen by the children as a welcome distraction from the various treatments they were enduring. Peter Kress, a seven-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, was just happy to have someone besides his mom to play video games with.
“He’s going to talk about this forever,” said Amy Kress, as she watched her son school Alexander on his Wii.
One by one the group visited the rest of the wing and then gathered to collect their thoughts before going home.
“It’s hard,” said Alexander. “You kind of put yourself in the parents’ shoes and that’s the worst thing I can possibly think of, your child being sick because as a man, you feel like you can fix everything. So any way we can make it a little bit easier to be in this place, that’s why we do it. Try to ease the pain as much as we can.”
Golston admitted that being with the children offered a dose of reality.
“It puts things into perspective,” he said, thinking of his own kids. “I think sometimes we forget how children see the world. What we think is doing something small seems larger than life to them.”