A day filled with smiles

A smile. It's something so simple, but often so tough to come by for patients at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

But on Tuesday, smiles were plentiful when the Steelers rookie class visited the hospital. Spirits were immediately lifted, and laughter quickly proved to be the best medicine. 

"No matter what is going on around the world, or in your personal life, you can come here and see the kids and it immediately puts a smile on my face," said T.J. Watt. "It's unexplainable. To be able to take a moment and draw a picture, or play corn hole. To take his or her mind off of what's going on, it's so special. To make them happy makes me happy as well. To have us come in and see them and impact the day is so special to us.  

Take a look at photos from the 2017 rookie visit to the Children's Hospital

"It's awesome to get out in the community and see how much wearing a Steelers jersey means to people. Anything we can do to help these kids make life easier. They didn't ask for this life. The way they are fighting gives us inspiration as well. That is why we love to get out in the community, especially coming to Children's Hospital."

For Brian Allen, the visit is personal. His two-year old daughter, A'mya, was born premature and had to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit in* *Utah.

"It's a great experience," said Allen. "I know what some of these families are going through. I went through something similar with my daughter. Just helping these families, putting a smile on their faces, it's a big thing for me.

"It fills me up with butterflies. My daughter was born 2 ½ months early. She was in the NICU for a long time. As a parent that is a hard thing to go through. I know what these parents are going through. You really can't explain it. It makes you feel good on the inside. Not many kids go through this experience. It's hard. I have been through it and overcome it and it helps me let the families know they can overcome it."  

The players spent time playing games, including some intense games of Jenga, as well as signing autographs and posing for pictures.

And for nine-year old Ella Tagmyer, who after eight open heart surgeries is waiting on a heart transplant, it was a chance for her to meet James Conner, someone she admires. "It's just great," said her mother Dana Tagmyer. "It's great to have them come down here and spend time with them. James came right over to her and said what do you want to do, I want to play with you. He played a game with her, he talked to her, wanted to know what she was going through and just hang out with her."

Like his fellow rookies, Conner spent time with each child, giving them the love they all deserve.

"I love it," said Conner. "I have been here a couple of times. To see how their faces light up when we walk in, it's priceless. The kids are what really matters. They are what's most important. They are special. You want to get to know them, talk to them. I get inspired by them. It means so much. I understand it firsthand. When a mom tells me their kid is going through cancer, I can understand and give them some hope." 

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