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Reds Caravan spreads cheer to kids at Dayton Children's Hospital

MLB.com @m_sheldon

DAYTON, Ohio -- Reds radio-broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman walked into the hospital room on Saturday morning and saw a 15-year-old boy named Ian lying in his bed. Brennaman did not hesitate to spread some cheer.

"How you doin' young man?" Brennaman said with a big voice and smile.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Reds radio-broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman walked into the hospital room on Saturday morning and saw a 15-year-old boy named Ian lying in his bed. Brennaman did not hesitate to spread some cheer.

"How you doin' young man?" Brennaman said with a big voice and smile.

And just like that, everybody was at ease and some conversation flowed.

Brennaman was joined by Reds right fielder Scott Schebler, Minor League prospect Blake Trahan, former Reds outfielder Dmitri Young, assistant general manager Nick Krall, Fox Sports Ohio broadcaster Brian Giesenschlag and mascot Gapper. The visit to Dayton Children's Hospital was the first stop of the day as part of the Reds Caravan's north leg.

"It's tough. It's really tough," Brennaman said of seeing young people hospitalized. "It's human nature to have healthy kids and want to take it for granted. And then you see a situation like this and you realize the old saying, 'But for the grace of God, go I.'"

Brennaman is a major supporter of the Dragonfly Foundation in Cincinnati, which seeks to bring care, comfort and joy to kids and young adults coping with cancer.

"It's a sobering experience," Brennaman continued. "I think we bring some joy into to the lives of these kids, who might have some knowledge of who we are in a general sort of way -- or a specific way, if they are diehard baseball fans from a young age."

The Reds often visit hospitals on caravan trips and during the season. But Saturday's stop came after a special request made to the club in December by 18-year-old Rosie Westerbeck, a senior at Minster High School.

Westerbeck, a former Miss Ohio's Outstanding Teen 2014, started the Red Wagon Campaign to benefit Dayton Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network. Her nonprofit organization collects wagons to fill with toys and games for young patients.

When Westerbeck was in first grade, she was a patient at Dayton Children's Hospital.

"I remember the child-life specialists. There was someone who made blankets, and I got one when I was here," Westerbeck explained. "I don't remember anything else about the visit but getting the blanket and feeling so comfortable here. I was so at home. In high school and through volunteering, I wanted to give back. I wanted to let them know that this was the best hospital visit you can have. The hospital, for a kid, is super scary. It really is. But they have a way of making you feel comfortable here, and I wanted to give back to them and let them know I appreciated it.

"They always need red wagons. They're like wheelchairs and they use them for transportation. That's what I wanted to do."

As a freshman, Westerbeck donated five wagons and her school helped fill them with toys and other items. This year, she was able to provide 14 wagons with thousands of dollars in toys and games amassed via donations from her community.

A couple of the wagons were loaded up with Reds gear on Saturday. Schebler and Trahan helped pull them from room to room.

"It's always good to come here and brighten somebody's day [who] might be having a rough time," Schebler said. "I've had family members go through rough times. It's really cool to brighten their day. I know how tough it can be to be in the hospital all the time. It's not a fun place to be. But if we can bring any joy to them, it makes us feel good -- and if it ultimately makes them feel better, that's all that matters."

Everyone made sure each kid visited got something to enjoy.

Gapper particularly brought a smile to 17-year-old Brooke, who laughed as he came in bearing gifts. Down the hall, 12-year-old MeKensey and her father also got a nice lift for a few minutes.

"This is the main man right here," Brennaman said of Gapper. "He brought the goody bag and hats."

Westerbeck smiled as she joined the players walking the halls.

"That was one of my goals, to get some notable people with me to come donate the next wagons," she said. "Definitely a goal was achieved."

Brennaman and the group were pleased they could stop over for a little while before continuing the rest of their tour.

"This is not the easiest thing in the world to do," Brennaman said. "But it's something you feel like you have to do and hope you put a smile on the face of a kid before you leave here."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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