VANCOUVER, BC – On Tuesday afternoon, Vancouver Whitecaps FC players and staff made their first visit to BC Children’s Hospital of the new year.
And it was a momentous one, indeed.
Tuesday marked the official grand opening of the ‘Caps-themed playroom at the new Teck Acute Care Centre, part of Whitecaps FC’s $1 million commitment to BC Children's Hospital Foundation (BCCHF). It’s a project that has been in the works for years – and on Tuesday it finally came to life.
“It’s what we do,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “We like to give back to the community that we’re in and this is a wonderful way of doing it … for the kids that are needing the services and for the parents to take a little reprieve from whatever it is they’re going through. That’s something we’re happy to be a part of.”
As part of the special visit, each child in the playroom received a brand new 2018 Whitecaps FC Unity Jersey, which the ‘Caps were wearing for the first time.
One child in attendance on Tuesday was 12-year-old Colton Hasebe – the BCCHF’s 2018 Champion Child. In December 2015, Hasebe was suffering from an asthma attack when he was brought into BC Children’s Hospital, where he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Hasebe stopped breathing, lost his heartbeat for 15 minutes, and suffered a permanent brain injury from a lack of oxygen.
As a result, Hasebe lost his vision and was unable to eat or walk.
But after a month’s rehab at BC Children’s Hospital, Hasebe miraculously regained his autonomy and was able to return home with his family. And there he was on Tuesday, mingling with the players, taking photos, and perhaps most importantly, smiling.
“It was very, very fun,” Hasebe said. “It’s not often I get to do soccer related things.”
Hasebe said the best part of the afternoon was getting to meet the players. There were six of them in attendance: Aly Ghazal, Kei Kamara, Aaron Maund, Jake Nerwinski, Brian Rowe, and Russell Teibert. But he also enjoyed playing soccer on the virtual pitch that was projected onto the ground, one of the room’s most popular features.
“If something touches the digital ball, then it goes flying,” Hasebe said. “It was super cool. I didn’t expect the technology to be that advanced … children are definitely going to enjoy it here.”
The idea of the virtual pitch, and the ‘Caps playroom as a whole, is to encourage movement and activity amongst the patients. And that fits into a larger BCCHF initiative called the Children’s Healing Experience Project – designed to enhance the patient experience and healing process through technology and purpose-built art, murals, sculptures, and the likes.
Other features in the Whitecaps FC playroom include three interactive ‘Caps-themed whiteboards that allow kids to express themselves and get into the spirit of the game by colouring Whitecaps FC mascot Spike, designing jerseys, and creating their own scarves, a cozy built-in reading nook framed by the peaks of the Whitecaps FC logo, and a large mural of BC Place.
“We treat kids from newborn straight to 17 years old,” said Maria Faccio, BCCHF vice-president and chief philanthropy officer. “So this playroom allows for not only the patients that are being treated but their brothers and sisters and their parents to get out of their hospital rooms and have that sense of distraction, the normalcy of childhood, and a feeling of being at home as well.”
BC Children’s Hospital has been a longstanding partner of Whitecaps FC.
In 2017, the club raised more than $600,000 for BCCHF through the matchday 50/50 program, the Legends & Stars charity alumni match, and other fundraising initiatives.