The families waited in a central meeting ground right off the elevator banks inside the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital in Baltimore. Some children had been staying there for days. Others checked in hours before. And as the Maryland football team stepped into the room called “The Forest,” decorated with trees and bushes, everyone rushed to meet their massive visitors.
Six Terrapins players, director of operations Fran Foley, Coach Randy Edsall and other support staff members visited the hospital Tuesday afternoon, during Maryland’s first bye week this season. They stayed for an hour, bringing shoulder pads and helmets for the children to try on, and left them with gifts like posters, cups and stickers.
“When I think about a child coming into the hospital for an overnight stray, to start it with something really unique like that is powerful,” said Shannon Joslin, the hospital’s child life manager. “It’s stressful, they’re worried about their child, then they have this great first experience, coming onto the unit with Terps players who are there because they care about the kids who are in the hospital, and want to let children know they care about them. One of my staff commented when they walked by this young girl’s room, the girl was on the phone telling someone enthusiastically that as soon as she got here she met football players.”
Long snapper Greg Parcher, offensive lineman Nick Klemm, center Sal Conaboy, defensive back Rashid Conteh, defensive lineman Zeke Riser and recent walk-on Tehuti Miles all made the trip on their off day.
“It is just great being here today,” Edsall said, according to the athletics Web site. “I look forward to this during the open week to come up to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital to spend time with young people here. To be able to come and put a smile on their face, kind of get their minds off what is troubling them is great. When you see the smiles on people’s faces it makes you feel good and makes you feel like you’re making their day a little brighter, so it’s a very special day for us.”
Klemm, who’s been on crutches since the season began, bonded with one particular teenager who checked into the hospital on crutches with an injured leg, and later visited the room of another injured children unable to leave due to mobility issues.
“It’s very much a bright spot in the hospital stay,” Joslin said. “It helps to break up the normal routine of the hospital. Activity rooms and play times and other fun events that we do on a day-to-day basis, but visits like this are out of the norm. It’s more unique and especially to have a local team and a well-known local team come to visit, really helps to brighten up their spirits and make that day a little different from every other day.
“For parents, I could tell there were some parents out there who were probably even more enthusiastic about the visit than their child was, because the parents are big Terps fans, really excited to know that folks in the community care about what’ going on in the hospital.”
The Terps return to action on Oct. 5 against Florida State, currently ranked eighth nationally in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls. Both teams are undefeated, Maryland at 4-0 and the Seminoles at 3-0. Florida State plays Saturday at Boston College.