ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Faith.
The name is fitting for the 7-year-old, who was speechless for the first time in her young life when she met Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller, and she couldn’t keep herself from jumping for joy afterward.
“Faith never closes her mouth, literally she talks constantly,” said Faith’s mother, MaryAnn Fithian. “So the fact that she was so quiet when they were in here was really funny.”
Faith is a patient at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and was one of the lucky children to meet the Red Wings’ players as they made a visit to Ann Arbor. The Dexter, Michigan, native has hypoganglionosis and is a frequent visitor at the hospital.
“I have to be in the hospital a lot,” Faith said.
And the one thing that makes her visits better?
“The athletes,” the 7-year-old said, jumping up and down with a priceless smile on her face.
The Wings’ trio were among eight players who visited the hospital after Tuesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, going from room to room to greet the children, take pictures, sign autographs, pass out goodie bags and put smiles on the faces of every young patient they met.
“The kids are real excited to see us and it’s kind of good for your soul,” Wings forward Tomas Tatar said. “When you walk in and see all the sad kids start smiling, they can be happy for a little bit and just forget about what they’re going through.”
The Red Wings also visited 16-year-old Spencer Morse, who’s in the hospital with a rare lung disease that makes him susceptible to infections. The Perry, Michigan, native is currently taking classes at Lansing Community College and plans on majoring in pre-medical studies, and was all smiles when the Red Wings entered his room.
“It was a good experience, I liked it a lot,” Morse said. “They were really nice guys.”
The players enjoyed the visit just as much the children.
“I think it’s a great thing that we’re in a position to help out people in the community and especially children, I mean they’re going through something that’s so scary for anyone, but as a kid you’re really unaware and not sure what’s going on,” Miller said. “So anytime you can go there and put a smile on their face and kind of take them away from that atmosphere, it’s something that I think goes a long ways.”
It was a small gesture that meant the world to Faith and her mother.
“Seeing the athletes makes being here worthwhile, she’s just jumping up and down,” Fithian said, pointing to her young daughter. “She’s never gotten to meet the Red Wings, we know a lot of the Michigan athletes from being here, we’re here often so it’s exciting for her to get to meet the Red Wings and I’m sure they have a new Number 1 fan now, because she’s pretty excited.”
Faith was still smiling ear to ear as she walked to the elevator on her way home, stopping to take a picture with Wings forward Justin Abdelkader for her brother. For a moment, hockey was forgotten and the only thing that mattered was spreading holiday cheer throughout the hospital.
“It makes you realize it’s not all about hockey,” Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl said. “Some of the kids, what they’re going through, obviously you feel bad for them and then you try to cheer them up as hard as you can or as possible as you can so it’s something different and we like doing it.”
After spending the afternoon brightening the children’s day, the group of Red Wings left Ann Arbor with smiles on their faces as bright as the one they put on Faith’s.
“I’m leaving the hospital every time feeling good about myself, feeling blessed, feeling happy for them,” Tatar said. “We joke around with the kids, playing a little bit so I usually leave the hospital really happy.”
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