Special Visitors Greet Sylvester Patients

Several unique visitors brought smiles and kisses to the faces of patients at Sylvester on Monday, February 16. A handful of Miami Marlins players, along with dogs from Canine Assistance Therapy, paid a joint visit to alex’s place, the pediatric oncology clinic at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and to adult patients in the Comprehensive Treatment Unit.

The Marlins visit was part of Marlins Ayudan Week 2015, a volunteer program led by the team’s front office to bring a positive message to the community. Ayudan, meaning ‘help’ in Spanish, engages Marlins players in various activities around South Florida.

Several adult patients discussed their conditions with the players while others discussed baseball and their hopes of winning a championship. Billy the Marlin was a huge hit as he shared hugs, kisses and high-fives, while the players signed autographs and gave out gift bags and shiny blue super hero capes. Patients of every age were able to take photos with players, Billy, Marlins cheerleaders, and the dogs.

Lesly Evenou, father of five-year-old Keila Evenou, said it was a great idea. “She sees Billy the Marlin on TV and now she sees him in person. It’s putting a smile on her face.”

That was exactly the goal of Joanne Jurgle, assistant director of Canine Assisted Therapy. “We’re not going to cure anybody, but if we can bring a smile to their face and their heart, that’s what it’s all about.”

Pitchers Matt Ramsey and David Phelps both said they enjoyed doing something to give back to the community. Phelps, a father of two, said, “It’s more than giving your time — it’s making them happy. It’s our duty to help them any way we can.”

In fact, bringing happiness to some of Sylvester’s youngest patients is delivering more than a smile. John Goldberg, M.D., Director of the Pediatric Oncology Early Phase Clinical Trials Program at Sylvester and assistant professor of pediatrics, said, “Positive emotions and attitudes make a difference in their health and help them get better.”

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