DAYTON, Ohio -- As it poured rain outside under gloomy skies Saturday, with a big snowstorm in the forecast, there were moments of brightness inside for some of the young patients being treated at Dayton Children's Hospital.The Reds Caravan northern leg dropped by in the morning to say hello to
DAYTON, Ohio -- As it poured rain outside under gloomy skies Saturday, with a big snowstorm in the forecast, there were moments of brightness inside for some of the young patients being treated at Dayton Children's Hospital.
The Reds Caravan northern leg dropped by in the morning to say hello to kids in their hospital beds. Second baseman Scooter Gennett, pitchers Sal Romano and Cody Reed, infield prospect Brantley Bell and mascot Mr. Red rolled through the hallways carrying toys in red wagons.
"This is amazing," Romano said. "This is always one of my favorite visits. In Cincinnati, I always take at least one time a month to go to the Children's Hospital there. It means a lot to me. This is way more than baseball. This is a time for us to take a step back from our everyday jobs and come talk to these kids."
In an event that's in its third year, the Red Wagon Campaign to benefit Dayton Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network was started by Rosie Westerbeck, a 20-year-old college student. Westerbeck's wagon drive connection with the Reds started when she was an 18-year-old Minster High School senior in 2017. She collects the wagons via donations and fills them with toys, stuffed animals and Reds gear.
When Westerbeck was in first grade, she was a patient herself at Dayton Children's Hospital and remembered the kindness of visitors bearing gifts. She recalls receiving a blanket that gave her great comfort.
"It made my white bed with the white sheets a little less scary. It gave me a little bit of hope that I needed to finish the day out and get better," Westerbeck said. "That's what it's all about, making it kid-friendly around here so that they forget that they broke their arm or why they are sick for a second. It all makes it better."
Westerbeck is a marketing major at Northern Kentucky University just outside of Cincinnati and will compete to represent Ohio in the Miss America Pageant this year. She spends her summers working for the Reds' Rally Pack gang that entertains fans before and during games at Great American Ball Park. There hasn't been a count of how many wagons Westerbeck has donated to the hospital.
"My goal is not to quantify what I do. It's really just to give all we've got, and with great love too," Westerbeck said.
The first room visited belonged to 14-year-old Laila Jones from Dayton. Jones had spinal correction surgery Friday and was already able to get up and walk Saturday.
"We've got some toys, and a hedgehog!" Reed cheerfully said, while holding a stuffed animal and drawing laughs from the others.
Jones declined the hedgehog and took some Reds stuff. Later, her mother, Cicely, popped out of the room and said Laila changed her mind and wanted the plush animal.
One hedgehog was promptly delivered.
"Thank you, guys, for coming in and making her day," Mom said.
A 9-year-old boy, Avin Stegal of Xenia, Ohio, was next for the guys to see.
"Would you like a backpack?" Bell offered.
Gennett also provided Stegal with one of his bobbleheads and autographed it.
Joseph Evans, 7, of Covington, Ohio, was already wrapped in a baseball blanket while lying in bed.
"We're coming in!" Romano announced. "What's up, my man?"
Reed gave the boy some toy cars and everybody received high-fives as they exited.
Andrew Hunter, 17, from Continental, Ohio, was playing video games in his room when the players entered. Romano and Reed grabbed a controller and played NBA2K.
"It means a lot, it's fun," Hunter said of his visit. "I have a friend at school who is obsessed with them. This will make him jealous."
Many of the kids were able to interact with the Reds, but others were too critically ill or not up to having visitors. The players made sure they saw their parents and gave them gifts for their children.
Seeing kids fighting injury and illnesses was not easy to witness, but the group did not hesitate to do what it could to make things easier for them.
"It's always nice to see these kids smile," Gennett said. "They're going through a really tough time. To come in and see that we might have made a few of them a little happier today is worth it."
The Reds Caravan finale will take place Sunday at Great American Ball Park inside the FOX Sports Club from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The location was moved from the Florence Mall due to expected inclement weather.
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.