HOUSTON -- One week before Christmas, the Houston Astros visited the Ronald McDonald House to extend a little holiday cheer to youngsters and families who have more to worry about than what may be wrapped and waiting for them underneath the tree.
Dealing with real-life issues such as illness, treatments and, hopefully, cures, the kids who inhabit the Ronald McDonald House have a lot to process day to day. A visit from the local baseball team was likely a welcome distraction as they enjoyed a little one-on-one time with Major League ballplayers.
Three Astros players -- Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Josh Zeid -- along with the ever-popular mascot Orbit and members of the Astros' front-office staff delivered holiday gifts to the children and families on Wednesday. Many of the children, who are battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, received special gifts selected just for them.
"I don't know what it would be like to go through cancer treatments, but I know it's very tough on the families," Cosart said. "To come here and give a little gift and see these kids smile, it meant a lot to me."
In addition to the gifts, the Astros also contributed to the organization's "Santa Store." The Santa Store at Ronald McDonald House Houston allows families the opportunity to "shop" and select gifts for their family members for free.
Many family members find it difficult to shop for holiday gifts while staying at the Ronald McDonald House and caring for a child undergoing treatment for significant medical issues.
"The only thing we asked of the kids -- smile," Cosart said. "They didn't have any problem doing that. They were ecstatic to get a couple balls and a gift. It brightened up a lot of their days, and that's all we can ask for."
The Ronald McDonald House Houston, which is located at 1907 Holcombe Blvd., offers a home away from home, providing care, compassion and hope to families with seriously ill children being treated in Texas Medical Center member institutions.
"This is a time of year when everyone is thinking about their friends and family and wishing people good health and happiness," said Astros vice president of community relations Meg Vaillancourt. "For the Astros, it's a humbling gift to be at the Ronald McDonald House, where children and their families are facing life-challenging illnesses. It's really a gift for us to be here and share with them a little bit of the joy of the season."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.