Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Children's Inn at NIH

“The children who come here have exhausted all their other options," stated Meredith Daly, Media Relations Coordinator from The Children's Inn at NIH. "This is their last chance. Pediatric Cancer is 87% curable. We get the other 13%. So, the likelihood is that we will lose a lot of these kids."

"And while those kids are getting treatment here by the good doctors at NIH, The Children’s Inn tends to their heart and soul," said Cyrus Zolghadri, the President of The Formula Sports & Entertainment Group. "This place let’s them stay at peace with their families.”

Since 1990, over 10,000 seriously ill children and over 40,000 families have visited The Children's Inn at NIH. Started 19 years ago to provide a support unit for kids from throughout the world--who need the premier medical services only The National Institutes of Health can offer--The Children's Inn's 59 rooms are the temporary homes for those children sick from, not only cancer, but heart, lung, blood, bone and growth disorders, mental illnesses, and HIV infection.

It's a daunting task to care for these ill youngsters, while still helping them and their families keep their piece of mind and semblance of life. Raising the spirits of these sick children is an everyday battle, and that is where a recently developed program involving Sports Ambassadors begins at the Bethesda campus. The Ambassadors lend their names and likenesses to The Children's Inn to help raise money and build support groups for the many young patients that come from all our 50 states and 74 foreign countries.

For the past two years, The Children's Inn at NIH has worked with all seven Professional Sports Teams in the Washington, D.C. area. The Washington Redskins, The Washington Capitals, The Washington Wizards, The Washington Mystics, The Washington Freedom, D.C. United and now Our Washington Nationals. One-time Redskin Mark Brunell was the very first Sports Ambassador at NIH. Our Washington Nationals John Lannan, the latest.

“I have been trying to come out here the whole year and it is just great that I was in the area and able to set up this visit and see the kids," said John Lannan. "I’ve really wanted to do this all year. It’s great that they came to the games and I just want to show them I appreciate them coming out and supporting us (The Washington Nationals). So, I am here supporting them.”

“We were looking for a Nationals representative to join the rest of our athletes and we thought they would be a sports property that wanted to be involved," recalled Sara Stesis, Marketing and Project Coordinator." I called The Nationals and since John also has a program that he was attempting to do on his own (Lannan’s Cannons), we kind of fused the two together."

Since the launching of his "Lannan's Cannon's" program this past summer, John has dedicated some of his free time and his own money to the kids and family members at the NIH Campus. Over the last few weeks of the just completed 2009 Baseball Season, Lannan hosted sick children from The Children's Inn and their families during Sunday Home Games. Providing food vouchers and game tickets, John wanted to furnish an escape from the daily regimen of treatments and, hopefully, put some fun back into these youngsters lives.

“John has been so generous and he’s not even seen The Inn (until this day), proclaimed Ms. Daly. "This will be his very first visit. He really wants to see what can happen here. He has gone over and above what we originally planned. He contacted us and wanted to set up his visit. We usually get in touch with the team and they set up the schedule. But in this case, HE WANTED TO COME RIGHT AWAY, and was asking when we could accommodate him."

Arriving around 4:30PM this afternoon with teammate Craig Stammen alongside, John presented to The Children's Inn at NIH a check for $7,500. The Inn the beneficiary of Lannan's Nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009 for community service. Then, John and Craig sat down with those children able to come greet them. Whereupon Lannan read to the kids the famous baseball story by Ernest Thayer--"Casey At The Bat".

After reading "Casey At The Bat", John and Craig led the entire group outside to the Sports Court at The Children's Inn, where the kids and Nationals Players played catch for a good 20 minutes. Then, everyone was invited back inside where My Best Friend!! Screech!! was in the house to hand out "Build-A-Bear" Screech Dolls and a Baseball Card Team Set of Our Washington Nationals. Lannan and Stammen signed autographs and took pictures with kids and family members alike.

John Lannan: “They seem pretty excited and I am very excited to see them too. I am glad we got to come out here and play a little bit. I am staying around here, so I can get out into the community, talk to kids and make people aware that we are here. Baseball has been gone in the D.C. area for some time, so I want to get out and make people aware that we are here and we (The Nationals) support our community."

Meredith Daly: "Yet not only did John want to come to the Inn, but he called back and asked if he could go to the hospital as well for the kids that can’t make it to the reading. All the families that stay here are outpatients. They are well enough to be staying here. Unfortunately, there are many more in-patients that can’t be here. He (John Lannan) wanted to make it up there (to the hospital) which is special. We have had Ambassadors for two years now and we have never had an Ambassador who has taken it to this level. He has gone so far above and beyond.”

Without hesitation, John Lannan and Craig Stammen walked over to the main hospital at NIH to visit sick children enjoying a special halloween party (pictures were not allowed here). But what John and Craig did provide was an ample amount of fun and joy.

Sara Stesis:“It’s all for a good cause, it takes the athletes just 30 seconds to fall in love with this place. They want to be involved and they want to help in any way they can. It’s not a hard sell. And when the athletes do come, I think they feel more for the kids than even the kids may feel.”

John Lannan agrees: This keeps you humbled and it keeps you grounded. I feel really grateful for being in the place I am at. And I am even more grateful that I can give back. They are sick and I am glad I can be here and have some fun with them—make their day a little happier.”

The role of the Sports Ambassador is to lift the spirits of the children, while not focusing on the illness. Happiness, which both Craig Stammen and John Lannan have both taken to heart. “It’s not like this is punishment," believes Craig. "We like doing these things. This is good. It is fun to see their smiling faces.”

Joy which Ambassador Lannan also sees: "Any time you are named an Ambassador, that is just an honor. I want to hold up that title of Ambassador and try to do my best to help these kids out.....we have to show (our) new guys that are coming up (to Washington's Team) that it’s not a pain to do these things. It’s actually fun. You get the chance to meet young kids and you get the chance to meet families in different areas and all walks of life. So, it’s really cool."

Yeah, today's visit by John Lannan, Craig Stammen and Screech to The Children's Inn at NIH was not only cool, but special, because this appearance occurred well AFTER the 2009 Major League Season had been completed by Our Washington Nationals. Lannan and Stammen did not HAVE TO BE THERE. They both could have been home relaxing. Instead, John and Craig wished to be different makers, even if only for one day, in the lives of these young children suffering through some of the worst health issues imaginable.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


SenatorNat said...

This is just great from every point of view imaginable. Thanks for the account and the slendid pictures. I know that D'Angelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth meant to go along, but they haven't the time since they need to continue to count their unearned combined $67 million in bonus money and publicly deriding their team...

Trust in thoroughly decent baseball players. And great kids. All moving.

Steve Walker said...

These are the kind of 1st class men that I hope, one day, win or lose, comprise the vast majority of the Washington Nationals. Character does matter.

Thank you, gentleman. And thank you, SBF, for the story.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the piece and pics. Good on you, John and Craig.