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Umpires hold build-a-bear workshop for kids in Toronto

TORONTO -- The kids at SickKids hospital got a glimpse at the softer side of a typically stern group of arbiters on Tuesday.

The umpiring crew from the Blue Jays/Rays series this week hosted a build-a-bear workshop in the family lounge at SickKids, as scores of children and their families built custom teddy bears, monkeys and dogs.

They decked out their plush buddies in Blue Jays garb, or in some cases as Batman or ballerinas.

Marvin Hudson, the home-plate umpire on Tuesday and vice president of UMPS CARE, the charity that facilitated the event, said being able to give kids in less-fortunate situations a getaway, even if only for an hour, makes his entire day.

"To see these kids in here smile, it's very touching," Hudson said. "You know [their situation], it could happen to anybody. And the one reason we are here is to put a smile on their faces and try to get them away from whatever it is they're going through at this point in time."

It was the second year in a row UMPS CARE teamed up with SickKids to host the event. SickKids Child Life specialist Susie Petro said build-a-bear is a highlight for the kids and their families, too, who often get the chance to pick the brains of Major League umpires.

"They are wonderful with the kids," she said. "I think umpires can get a bad rep [because of the nature of their jobs], so when they come into this environment, and they're around kids, you definitely see their softer side, and you can tell they really enjoy being here.

"It's been very positive. From a family perspective, it's a nice gift to the family, and it lets them know the community is thinking about them. It lets the kids have something to take back to their rooms, something to cuddle with and maybe give them a touch of home."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for
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