Laughter really is the best medicine

It was just what the doctor ordered, a morning where laughter drowned out the sound of IV's beeping as patients at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC got to know the Steelers' 2016 rookie class.

The rookies made a group visit to the hospital, playing games with the patients, posing for pictures and signing Terrible Towels. But more importantly, they were there to lift spirits, give some love, and just make the kid's smile.

Steelers rookies visit the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

"It's really nice to have this," said Kim Keith, whose six-year old son Landon was having fun playing every game he could. "He was sleeping for a few days and he finally woke up and this was motivation to get up and get out of bed.

"He really enjoyed himself. All of the kids were so happy and smiling. The players were smiling and having fun. It's wonderful for them to come out. Laughter is always the best medicine."

From Connect 4 to Rock'em Sock'em Robots, and everything in between, the fun and games gave the players the opportunity to interact with the kids and bring joy into their young lives while they are hospitalized.

"Interacting with the children is special," said wide receiver Demarcus Ayers.  "Just to get involved and let them know we care about them as much as they care about us. We are all equal, we just happen to be football players. Just to come here and interact with the kids, love on them. We want them to know it's not the end of the road because you have hit a bump in the road. We are here to support them.

"It warms my heart. It's a humbling experience to see what these kids go through at a young age. To give them our hearts and a warm welcome, it's great to see the smile on their faces."

And there definitely wasn't a shortage of smiles. The kids gravitated to the players with wide eyes and no fear, holding their hands, drawing pictures for them, and sharing their stories.

"This is the best," said linebacker Tyler Matakevich. "Just seeing them smile, you can't help but smile. It's what we should do, give back and try to make their day.

"It's such a terrible tragedy what some go through. I was talking to one girl and she was telling me she wanted to go to Temple, my alma mater. They were telling me she was fine one day, and then her lung just collapsed. Just hearing that it really makes you appreciate life because at any given time anything can happen."

For cornerback Artie Burns, seeing the kids made him count his blessings as he is the father of a healthy son, A.J.

"It's unfortunate that these kids are going through what they are going through," said Burns. "For them to be smiling now means a lot to me. This really hits me. I have a son and to see how healthy he is and to come and see this is hard. Everything they are going though and they are able to still smile means a lot."

While the doctors and the nurses are the lifeblood of keeping the patients healthy, everyone does agree, though, that the smiles and the laughter are the best medicine.

"It means so much to have them here," said Ken Rudek, the manager of the Child Life Department at the hospital. "All you have to do is say Pittsburgh Steelers and the excitement and the reaction from the children, and adults as well, is great. Just for the children to not have to think about where they are and what they are going through, it lights up their face and brings excitement and means so much to the patients and their families."

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