Recently, the Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland hosted nearly a dozen Oakland Raiders veterans, rookies, and coaches. The players, including QB Bruce Gradkowski and rookie T Jared Veldheer and coaches, including offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, and receivers coach Sanjay Lal, spent an afternoon visiting children in the Oncology Unit, the Intensive Care Unit, and Teen Unit. They spent the day brightening the mood of children who spend countless hours in hospital beds fighting infections and illnesses.
Jackson was excited to visit the children and described the experience as a humbling one. "It was great and it was something that I really wanted to do and something I wanted to do with our young players," Jackson said. "I wanted them to have them come out and see some kids that are less fortunate then they are." Jackson saw the importance of bringing the team together off the field in an moving environment like Children's Hospital. "There's a game we play on this field but there is also this thing called 'life' and that's really real," Jackson added.
Players such as G Allen Smith, DT Kellen Heard, DE Alex Daniels, Veldheer and OL Langston Walker, and WR Jacoby Ford were receptive to Coach Jackson's goals in visiting the hospital and bringing positive energy to the children. The doctors, nurses and other specialists were excited to see the children's smiling faces upon meeting the athletes. "My favorite part was really embracing the kids by walking around with them during the toughest times of their lives and just trying to put a smile on their face even if it's just for a few minutes," said rookie WR Jacoby Ford.
While many of the rookies visited the teen room and oncology units, veterans LS Jon Condo, QB Bruce Gradkowski and WR Louis Murphy took some time to visit children in the intensive care unit. At each bed, the Raiders signed autographs, shook hands, and posed for pictures with the patients and their parents. The experience was meaningful for the patients and their families, and was an emotional one for the players. At each bed, Gradkowski, Murphy, and Condo encouraged the kids to keep fighting and told them that they had the Raiders behind them.
Murphy felt that the experience at Children's Hospital brought them closer as a team. "It's just good camaraderie and good to come out here with our coaches and see some of my team," said Murphy. "It sounds funny, but its team building stuff that helps on the field. The fact that we hang out, we go to the hospital together, go to schools and talk together brings the team together."
The children "are up there with their doctors and the doctors are working very hard to do everything they can to give those kids the best chance at life," expressed Coach Jackson.
By visiting the hospital, the players and coaches hoped to bring positivity and an extra spark for the patients. As they walked away from the hospital at the end of the day, Murphy hoped that the children and their families know "we have them are in our prayers."