Ben McKendry - BC Children's Hospital
Farhan Devji/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Putting smiles on faces: Whitecaps FC make 'heartwarming' visit to the BC Children's Hospital

VANCOUVER, BC – Greta (pictured above) is five years old.

She has Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that has spread into her spine. Already, she’s had parts of three vertebrae removed as well as part of a tumor.

WATCH: Footage from WFC's BC Children's Hospital visit

Greta has been undergoing chemotherapy for two months.  

Next week, she’s off to Boston for three and a half months of radiation therapy, followed potentially by surgery and six more months of chemo. 

And on Monday afternoon at the BC Children’s Hospital, you couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.

Greta decided to spend her short break between chemo sessions by heading upstairs and mingling with some Vancouver Whitecaps FC staff and players, who were making a special visit.

“She loves meeting you guys,” her mother Heather told “It’s just nice to see her happy. She’s chatting with everybody and smiling a lot. It boosts her day.”

Greta is the ultimate optimist. You won’t meet a more positive five year-old.

Case in point: she’s actually looking forward to the upcoming Boston trip.

“She just looks at it as a vacation,” her mom said. “And she’s happy to go see different hospitals.”

And instead of complaining about being in a wheelchair, she has been telling her mom about the different sports she can play while in a wheelchair: like curling and basketball.

Meeting kids like Greta puts things into perspective, said Whitecaps FC midfielder Ben McKendry, who enjoyed a long conversation with her upon his arrival.

“We’re pretty lucky to do what we do,” McKendry told “When we’re down about having a bad game or not training well, or something like that, it’s nothing. It’s nothing compared to what these kids have to deal with. They’re showing incredible strength and it’s really inspiring.”

Monday marked McKendry’s first visit to the Children’s Hospital with Whitecaps FC. But it wasn’t the first time he had been there. The Vancouver native was actually born at the Children’s Hospital.

“It’s kind of crazy coming back thinking 22 years ago I was born here, but it was great experience and something I’d like to do more of,” McKendry said. “Evidently, these kids are full of life, which is kind of ironic, because it’s something that they’re fighting for at some level. Obviously, we’re professional athletes and that puts a smile on their face when we come in. Ultimately, I think it makes us happy as well.”

McKendry was one of six Whitecaps FC players who made the visit on Monday. The others were Marco Bustos, Steven Beitashour, Marco Carducci, Matias Laba and Paolo Tornaghi – not to mention club ambassador Carl Valentine, president Bob Lenarduzzi, and of course, the most popular of them all: Spike, the team’s mascot.

They mingled with some of the kids, playing games like air hockey and foosball, before making a few special room visits. In both settings, Beitashour was noticeably one of the more vocal ‘Caps players.

“Obviously, it’s difficult coming here and knowing their situation,” Beitashour told “But to see their reactions and the look of enjoyment on their faces when they see us, it’s really heartwarming. If I’m doing most of the talking, I’m sure the guys don’t mind as long as we’re getting some good jokes and good conversations in there. I enjoy talking to the kids and I hope they enjoy talking to me as well.”

Whether Beitashour was poking fun at Spike, calling him an “angry bird,” or talking NFL with one of the patients who was wearing a Seattle Seahawks jersey, the 28-year-old was clearly making an effort to spread some joy – as were the other members of the ‘Caps contingent.

And to see the look on Greta’s face when interacting with the players, or the constant laughter heard from the children playing with Spike, you know it worked.    


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