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Blue Jays are big hit at Ronald McDonald House

Players take time to visit, serve meals as part of Winter Tour

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays did their best to put some big league cooking skills on display on Friday night, finishing out the first day of their fifth annual Winter Tour by cooking and serving dinner to many of the residents at their local Ronald McDonald House.

Before serving up a well-balanced meal as a part of the Home for Dinner program and presenting a cheque from the Jays Care Foundation for $10,000 to the Ronald McDonald House Toronto School, Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, Dalton Pompey, Todd Redmond, Aaron Loup and mascot Ace got a chance to tour the facility and meet several of the families currently living there.

"If we can lend a helping hand while we're here in town, I'm all for it, I know my teammates are all for it, and the Blue Jays organization is all about figuring out how to keep contributing to helping out the local community," Bautista said. "So it's been awesome to come here and help out serving the meals tonight and also playing around with the little kids a little bit ...

"It's part of what we should do -- give back, figure out a way to help out within the local community of the cities we play in and in our home cities for each one of us."

Video: Day 1 of 2015 Blue Jays Winter Tour in Toronto

Being at home in his own city, Pompey was excited to have the opportunity to participate in the event, especially after making a donation in December through CIBC's Miracle Day program that will see him host four nights for Ronald McDonald House residents in the Jays Care Community Clubhouse during the 2015 season.

"It's touching to see all these people and what they're going through and the battles they're facing every day," the 22-year-old native of Mississauga said. "I go to battle too when I'm playing, but it's nothing like this. This is their lives and these are their families they're dealing with. It's a lot."

One of the first stops during the visit was for the players to see Kael Morrison. Celebrating his eighth birthday, the young fan with an immunodeficiency in recovery from a bone marrow transplant in November 2013 was allowed to leave the hospital for just one hour so that he could enjoy some time with his favourite team.

"This is amazing," Kael's mother Emily said. "In comparison to his birthday last year -- when Kael was in strict isolation with no visitors for six months, and in the hospital for a full year -- we can't even describe how much better it is. "And he loves baseball. That was the big thing this year was being able to get out of the hospital for an afternoon to go to baseball game. ... Our doctors were pretty awesome and let us out for two baseball games in private boxes, one was through Sick Kids [Hospital] and one was through TD Bank, so baseball became one of his favourite pastimes."

Deborah Holmes, the director of programs and operations at Ronald McDonald House, has been overwhelmed by the support of the Blue Jays over the 17-year relationship between the two organizations, with more than $230,000 of funding from the club. She believes the impact of the appearance by the players on Friday, along with 20 members of the Jays Care Foundation Community Crew, was immeasurable.

"It's really difficult to put into words," Holmes said. "Not only because of the clubhouse and the support we get here, but for the families it's just nice to see that people like this care and [the Blue Jays] really care about them. It gives them a really good lift and a good buzz. It makes tough times look a lot better knowing people care about them, including the Jays. ... It's really exciting for them."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to
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