The minute Joshua Dobbs walked into the room at Child's Way, a day care for medically fragile children at The Children's Home & Lemieux Family Center, the smiles couldn't have been brighter.
And it was hard to tell whose smile was the brightest…Dobbs or the kids he was getting ready to interact with.
Dobbs was a regular visitor to Child's Way throughout the season, and before he takes some time off for the offseason he wanted to make another visit, spend some time with the kids he has formed an amazing bond with.
"We are so thankful that Josh decided to come out and visit Child's Way once a week," said Pamela Keen, Chief Executive Officer for The Children's Home. "It's a form of stimulation and also very therapeutic for the kids to have Josh come and read to them, engage with them, play with them. It's a teaching and learning activity for them when he comes. They look up to him as someone who is a strong figure. He inspires our little kids, our big kids, letting them know they can do anything they put their mind to. It gives them a lot of hope and inspiration."
Dobbs immediately jumped into the fun the kids were having, starting off with some arts and crafts. But it went beyond that. It was the loving, compassionate approach he had that really hit you. He wasn't shy about picking the kids up and holding them, hugging them, talking quietly to them in a one-on-one manner that made the kids feel like they were the only person in the world.
"His visits bring a warm feeling to Child's Way," said Keen. "He has been a regular visitor so they have gotten to know him. They are comfortable with him. They confide in him like he is a friend. They story tell. They talk about their days. He shows an interest in them and what is going on with them beyond their medical issues. He interacts with them and that is great for their development, their self-esteem. He provides consistency."
Dobbs got involved with The Children's Home when he drove by the Shadyside facility one day on his way to work. He looked it up, learned more about it, and quickly fell in love with what they do and reached out to them about coming to visit.
"I didn't want to come once and never see them again," said Dobbs. "I wanted to build a relationship with them. The first time you come you are a stranger, and then you come time two, time three and they are more open with you. Now it's like they are used to me being here every Tuesday. When I don't get here it's weird for them. It's always fun for me. I love their energy. You never know what you are going to get. We definitely have a lot of fun.
"I enjoy seeing their smiling faces. We love to hang out, do arts and crafts and just like to play. We love hide-and-seek. That is one of our favorites."
As Dobbs talked about how much fun when he visits, he held a handmade thank you card from the kids, with the Steelers logo on the outside, and messages of love on the inside.
"It's cool when you open it and there is a letter from each of them about our personal experiences," said Dobbs. "I am thankful to have them be a part of my life here in Pittsburgh. I feel like they are family. It's always fun to come here and hang out and spend time together.
"For me it's a personal getaway. We get so consumed in our daily schedules, whether it's football, or going to work. When you come here you see there are other things that are important in this world to take time and enjoy and take in. It's good for me to experience this and get around people I normally wouldn't on a daily basis. I am thankful to have them in my life."