Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Blue Jays players visit kids rehab hospital

Pillar, Happ among group that went to Holland Bloorview on Tuesday
MLB.com

TORONTO -- A group of Blue Jays players spent Tuesday afternoon at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital signing autographs, taking pictures and playing games with disabled children.

"The Blue Jays are an integral part of the Holland Bloorview family," said Sandra Hawken, the foundation's president and chief executive officer. "Every year that they come, it's literally better than Christmas here for our kids."

TORONTO -- A group of Blue Jays players spent Tuesday afternoon at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital signing autographs, taking pictures and playing games with disabled children.

"The Blue Jays are an integral part of the Holland Bloorview family," said Sandra Hawken, the foundation's president and chief executive officer. "Every year that they come, it's literally better than Christmas here for our kids."

The children waited anxiously to see their Blue Jays heroes enter the gym, and their faces lit up with excitement once Kevin Pillar and his teammates came in to the room.

"It means a lot, because it makes you feel special and wanted to know that people care," said Owen, a 14-year-old patient at the hospital.

Pillar has been a regular at the Blue Jays' annual Holland Bloorview event.

"This is probably my fourth time, maybe fifth time coming out," Pillar said. "It's always a really exciting time for me to come here, a lot of mixed emotions, too. ... You can see some new faces; the sad thing is when I get to see some of the kids I've seen here for the last four or five years, knowing how long they've been here in the rehabilitation center."

The children swarmed Pillar, asking the Blue Jays' center fielder for autographs, high fives and, of course, selfies.

"You make some friendships," Pillar said. "You get to see them a couple times a year when we come back here, and ultimately be a distraction from what is a tough recovery back to good health."

J.A. Happ showed up with his wife, Morgan, to interact with the children. He was challenged to a game of Connect Four by one kid, who quickly defeated the All-Star pitcher.

"We just want to come out and say hello and get to meet some of the kids," Happ said. "It's amazing to see what some of these kids are going through with smiles on their faces, so it's some great perspective."

Holland Bloorview is Canada's largest pediatric rehabilitation hospital. It works with children with medical complexities and disabilities.

"There are so many ways that people can help at Holland Bloorview," Hawken said. "We have a huge volunteer program spreading the word about the work that we do, about how important it is to include kids in the community with a disability and donate. We have a lot of incredible programs that are only possible because of the community."

Aaron Rose is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays, J.A. Happ, Kevin Pillar