On a rainy Thursday afternoon 12 days before Christmas, New York Islanders player Matt Martin presented little Jared Perez with a gift.
It was a music-making toy, and the nine-month old boy who had been in New Hyde Park’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center since early November began to smile.
Martin and teammates Johhny Boychuk, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee visited the hospital to first play games with patients and then deliver gifts to children in their rooms.
“These visits are always extremely special just because these kids are going through so much in their day to day life,” Lee said. “The bravery that they have to show, how strong they are as kids through all these treatments and everything, for us to kind of take a few minutes with them and get their mind off it is always extremely enjoyable, and these kids are pretty inspiring.”
Phineas Cullen, 8, had arrived at the hospital a few days prior with kidney problems, his mother Sue Cullen said.
That afternoon, Boychuck challenged him to first mini air hockey, which Boychuck won, and then Connect 4, which Cullen consecutively beat him at.
“He does swimming, he plays football,” said Sue Cullen of her son. “One of his swim meets was at Nassau County Aquatic Center and he was like, ‘Look that’s where the Islanders play, Mommy,’ so he knows who they are.”
Jared Perez’s mother Teresa Perez said her son has had three head surgeries at the hospital since June. The surgery isn’t offered in Staten Island where she lives, she said.
“This is the best hospital,” Teresa Perez said in Spanish. “The doctors are very good doctors. All of them.”
This annual event with the Islanders helps gets patients out of their rooms, said the hospital’s special events coordinator Danielle Young. Cohen Children’s Medical Center holds at least one holiday event for them every day of December.
“They come in and they just bring so much joy to the kids,” Young said. “These kids look up to these people.”