Browns players Johnson Bademosi, Desmond Bryant, John Hughes, Craig Robertson, Danny Shelton and Joe Thomas visited pediatric patients on Tuesday for a surprise Halloween party as part of the Browns First and Ten program.
What's a pirate's favorite letter of the alphabet?
"Arrrrrrr!" chirped a group of pediatric patients Tuesday at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.
"You'd think that it was arrrrr," said Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. "But it's actually the C."
Joe Thomas's all-time favorite joke was a hit – and it perfectly complimented his attire for the day. Channeling Blackbeard, he donned an eye patch and pirate hat while brandishing a foam cutlass. He wasn't alone, as he was joined by a festive and formidable crew.
Teammates Johnson Bademosi, Desmond Bryant, John Hughes, Craig Robertson and Danny Shelton came out to the event and spent their time mingling with the pediatric patients. With activities like pop-a-shot basketball, arts and crafts, and corn hole, the afternoon was a whirlwind of fun.
One moment, though, made everyone stop and turn their attention to the middle of the room.
Julian Grills, one of the patients, started a celebratory dance after Robertson signed his foam sword. And not just any dance – he hit the "Whip/Nae Nae," made famous by Silentó. Soon, Robertson and Bademosi joined in on the action.
"It's fun, but the best part of the dance party breakout was how much fun the kid was having," Robertson said. "That's why we do what we do, that's why we come out on our off day – just to give the kids that spark."
To onlookers, Grills seemed like a little ball of energy, running around the atrium with a huge smile on his face. But to his parents, it was the most energetic they'd seen him in a long time.
"He used to dance for hours before he got sick," said his mother, Omea Grills. "He has a little bit of weakness, but he's not showing it today. He's just this energetic little boy, it's amazing."
Robertson certainly went the extra mile to connect with Julian and the other patients. Robertson came decked out in a full Mr. Incredible costume.
"If wearing a costume can help with a smile," he said, "I'll do it."
Mr. Incredible's calling card in The Incredibles was his super strength – a trait shared by Robertson's 340-pound teammate, Shelton. But most of Shelton's time was spent on some more finesse-based activities, like drawing and making crafts. He even got to try his hand at a Midwestern tradition, as he played his first ever game of corn hole with one of the patients.
"Man, we were battling each other," Shelton said of his first game. "I think he got me 3-2, but we had a couple rallies going on."
Doing crafts and beanbag-based sports may not seem like something that would have a lasting impact, but for Shelton, just spending time with the patients meant the world.
"Even though it's grayish and cloudy outside, it feels like the sun is shining," Shelton said. "Being here, it warms your heart. It's just great to see the kids' faces smiling."
Those smiles are rare for some of these children, who spend weeks or even months at a time inside the hospital's walls. But the sight of Browns players – costumed and chipper – brought the smiles out in full force.
One particular smile stood out to Robertson, though.
"I met a kid, he's had 22 brain surgeries, and he can't be more than 10 years old," Robertson said. "A kid who's been going through that much already at such a young age, to see him sit down and have fun and smile is icing on the cake."
Although Thomas missed out on the dance party – he was visiting rooms of patients who weren't able to travel downstairs – seeing his team come together to make Tuesday's Halloween party so special was a point of pride for the ninth-year pro.
"The group of guys who came out here today – you can tell they really enjoy those moments," he said. "Being able to make that difference is special.
"It's really special, and we were humbled by that opportunity."
About First and Ten
Each Tuesday, the players' day off, the Browns continue their commitment to #give10 and are engaged in the community throughout the season. The Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign was established to inspire fans to volunteer in their communities throughout the world for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community.
About University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital
Internationally renowned, UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital is a full-service children's hospital and pediatric academic medical center with experts in 16 medical divisions and 11 surgical specialties who offer nationally ranked care not available at other institutions in the region, including a center dedicated to adolescent and young adult cancer treatment and Northeast Ohio's only single-site provider of advanced maternal fetal medicine and neonatology services. As the primary pediatric affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the region, UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital offers access to novel therapies, advanced technologies and clinical discoveries long before they are available nationwide. Rainbow pediatric specialists – all of whom also serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine – are engaged in today's most advanced clinical research and are widely regarded as the best in the nation – and in some specialties, the best in the world. Learn more at www.Rainbow.org.