When the entire Bears rookie class visited young patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago Thursday, it was difficult to tell which group had more fun.
The football players and the kids both smiled and laughed while spending time together playing basketball, foosball, air hockey, ping-pong and bean bags, and coloring pictures.
"It felt good to be able to give back and to make their day," said seventh-round draft pick Javon Wims, a receiver from Georgia. "They're going through so much. Just to put a smile on their face means a lot.
“If you don’t enjoy doing stuff like this, then I don’t know what to tell you because this is amazing, to be able to make their day like this.” Bears rookie receiver Javon Wims
Kristina Fry's sons, 11-year-old Zack and 8-year-old Cooper, were among the children who enjoyed playing with the Bears rookies. The two brothers both suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological disorder that's a form of muscular dystrophy.
"This is amazing," Kristina said. "We want to give them as many opportunities as we can. They have limitations, so this is just a blessing for them. They're huge Bears fans and I think this will help them tremendously. They get down when they can't do a lot of things that other kids do. But this evens it out for them."
Wims and fellow draft picks Roquan Smith and Anthony Miller separated from the group and visited some children who were confined to their hospital rooms.
"Coming to Shriners Hospital was definitely a humbling experience," said Miller, a receiver from Memphis who was chosen in the third round. "I feel blessed being able to touch their lives the way that I could today. I got a whole bunch of smiles. Some of the kids were kind of out of it because of surgery, but you could still tell that they were excited that someone came to see them. It's just a blessing to give them that feeling."
Bears rookies take a trip to a local children's hospital to hang out with the kids and their families.
"It was awesome just being able to make these kids' day and coming out here knowing that these kids can never repay you," said Smith, a linebacker from Georgia who was selected with the eighth pick in the draft. "It seems like it's more than just giving back and I enjoyed being here."
Interacting with children who are dealing with difficult medical conditions impacted the Bears rookies.
"No matter what we may be going through in life, there's someone that's going through something that's way worse," Miller said. "You've got to keep going because there's somebody that wishes they could do what we're doing right now."
"It'll change your perspective big time just being here and knowing these kids are going through this at such a young age," Smith said. "Things get tough on your end, but not as tough as what these kids are going through.
"You think back and it's like, 'I have no reason to be down or anything because these kids keep a smile on their face when they're going through some of the worst things anyone could possibly go through and they're doing it at such a young age.'"
As part of their visit, the Bears donated $20,000 to Shriners Hospital, which will be utilized to purchase rehab equipment. But it's impossible to put a value on what Thursday's visit by the rookies meant to the young patients.
"It means an awful lot to our kids," said Shriners development officer Dan Winter. "It's really great for them to be connected with the Chicago Bears. They sometimes will lose their spirit and having these moments really helps them get going."