A magical connection

Texas Children’s, Disney and sports

For patients, going to the hospital is not a fun experience. Between the medical reason that brings them in to the disruption of their everyday lives, its rare that anyone looks back at their time in the hospital positively.

I took a break from the world last week and witnessed hospital living firsthand. My wife (who was 8 months pregnant at the time) checked into Texas Children's Pavilion for Women with high blood pressure. This kicked off a several day journey which included induction, a lot of bleeding, an emergency C-section, and luckily the birth of our first child. There were times during this period when I felt completely overwhelmed and there were moments of fear where I was certain the worst might happen. But looking back, besides the real hero (my wife!), I have to give all of my gratitude to the hospital staff for their hard work and professionalism; and strangely enough, to Disney. Yes, I said Disney…

Back in 2018, Disney announced a five-year plan to commit $100M in resources to help reimagine the patient and family experience in children's hospitals and Texas Children's is the guinea pig for this initiative. When they set their plan into motion their aim was clear; help families who have a child facing serious illness. Now, from the description I gave above that is not really what we went through. In terms of hospital time we were in and out relatively quickly and though our procedure was scary, it was really a routine one. But even though I only got a small taste of Disney's presence, I was thankful they were there.

When my wife and I were panicking about what would happen next, a nurse came into the room wearing a Disney badge and before we knew it, we found ourselves discussing their favorite movie characters and why they chose the badge they did. We even learned that the staff is encouraged to trade badges, and from the sounds off it Princess Tiana is in high demand. When things finally calmed down and my wife was sleeping, I got a chance to catch up on the NBA playoffs. I will always have the memory of holding my child and sharing our first sports moment together while catching the recap of the Raptors winning the championship on (Disney owned) ESPN. These things seem so small, but when you are anxious and scared and in a strange place, it's the small comforts that ground you and help you return to a state of normalcy.

So what about those families whom Disney is targeting? What are Disney's benefits for them? Needless to say it goes well beyond small comforts. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Personal – Room Décor, Hospital Gowns, & Care Packages; all customized to the choice of the patient. And yes sports fans, that appears to include ESPN and sports packages as well.
  • Public Areas – Murals, Magic windows, and Magic portals; all interactive with games and apps designed to allow children a break from their rooms and a glimpse into the magical Disney universe.
  • Movies and Shows – A mobile movie theater and DisneyNow apps; giving families access to the library of Disney owned media.
  • Staff Engagement – The badges I mentioned earlier along with personalized training events with a focus on care, compassion, & comfort.

I missed the announcement of this initiative back in 2018 but was pleasantly surprised to hear about it now. I only caught a portion of the benefits myself in my short stay and am obviously hopeful I never get a chance to fully experience the rest. But with that being said I am extremely grateful it exists. It is truly amazing that a kid going into surgery has access to their heroes on demand to help calm them and give them words of encouragement. Because of the amazing Texas Children's staff and their partnership with Disney, kids who face difficult situations might be able to look back on them one day and actually have happy memories sprinkled in.

Before I return back to the busy world of work and sports (and now fatherhood), I want to take a moment to applaud all those involved in this initiative. Though it was only small gestures for me I truly thank you for your hard work. I know that the families who are unfortunate enough to need full access to these resources are extremely grateful for the effort you have put forth. Please keep up the great work!

For anyone looking to learn more please follow up here: https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/disney-team-heroes


40 years later the amazing moment in sports history still holds its place

Do you (Still) believe in miracles?

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It's hard to believe, but this week marks the 40th anniversary of "The Miracle On Ice" A result and event where "if scripted", Hollywood would immediately reject on general premise, due to it's improbability. For a younger generation who is unfamiliar with the story (or the odds), visualize a bunch of nobodies and college kids two weeks ago trying to defeat Patrick Mahomes and the KC Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then, magnify that by about 50 times, and you'll have the general scope and idea. You see, this is exactly what TEAM USA was comprised of, a bunch of college kids, and nobodies going up against the mighty Soviets.

The average age on the American team was 21. They lacked speed, fire power and the tenure of their opponents. The Soviets hadn't lost an Olympic Hockey game since 1968. They had won 4 straight Gold Medals with their core players intact for entire stretches of their Olympic and Global dominance. By contrast, the only American returning from the 76' games was Buzz Schneider. Schneider would actually score the first goal vs. the Soviets. If you ask most American's today, they probably think Buzz was one of the astronauts. The Soviets were so dominating in this era, they had even defeated the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in 1979 to easily win The Challenge Cup.

Lake Placid, New York served as the backdrop for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is a small village in Essex County, NY with a population today of around 2,500 people. If you visit, it's amazing because everyone in that town claims that "they" were in attendance or had their elders in the tiny 8500 seat arena with their families. What makes the story even more remarkable, is that the matchup wasn't even supposed to happen. The U.S. were heavy underdogs even their opening contests with Sweden & Czechoslovakia. Not to mention, that no one really anticipated a contest vs the Soviets as a mere two weeks prior, the Soviets had easily defeated Team USA in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden by a score of 10-3. Adding insult to injury in that loss, was defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulling ligaments in his knee. Jack remained on the Olympic roster, but played sparingly throughout the tournament.

The Soviets steamrolled through their tier of countries, defeating Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Finland & Canada by a combined margin of 51-10. The American's railed for a 2-2 draw in their opening game vs. Sweden, then stunned the Czechs, and then handled, Norway, Romania & West Germany. Thus the stage was set. There are edited versions of the historic matchup available for viewing on YouTube. Unlike the late Jim Mckay who refused to reveal the result on ABC's coverage (the game had been played several hours earlier) would never have had the impact in today's age of social media, and technology. Most American's had no idea the result prior to the game's airing on that tape delay. As a 9 year old kid at the time, this was certainly the case for me! This improbable upset didn't actually secure the Gold Medal. Team USA had to play Finland (trailed 2-1) before rallying 4-2 for the victory.

The "Miracle On Ice" launched some amazing sports moments in the decade to come. The Flutie Hail Mary, Lorenzo Charles stunning the Cougars, Nova shocking the Mighty Hoyas, but nothing could ever match American Pride on February 22nd, 1980 after the Soviets went down 4-3.

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