The Mississippi Surge scored a lot of points Monday, not on the ice, but with some young children who are facing physical therapy. Several team members visited an outpatient rehabilitation center in Ocean Springs, and they came "bearing" gifts.
A dreary, rainy day couldn't stop the Mississippi Surge from carrying out an important goal. Three team members and their coach Jeff Bes put down their hockey sticks for the day to hand out stuffed animals to children who are undergoing speech, occupational, or physical therapy at the Neuroscience Center in Ocean Springs.
"It was great!" said seven-year-old Joseph Whalen. "I got one for my brother and one for my sister and one for me."
Some of the young patients have neurological disorders. Others have birth defects or have endured trauma following car or swimming accidents.
"I got this teddy bear from them and I got an elephant from them," said ten-year-old Christopher Sterling. "I like them."
When asked what she is going to do with her teddy bear, six-year-old Olivia Joffrion replied, "Sleep with it. I'm happy."
The surprise visit gave the guys, known for being tough on the ice, a chance to show their softer side.
"It was great! It puts a smile right on my face and giving a teddy bear and having them smile is unbelievable," said Mississippi Surge Left Wing Kyle Kudroch. "It's just a small token of our appreciation for being able to play in front of these fans and it's very humbling."
"Handing out the teddy bears and making people smile is just as important as throwing checks and hitting guys on the ice," said Mississippi Surge Center Kyle Fletcher.
And their gift can help make those long hours of therapy for the children a bit more bearable.
"Just get their spirits up, get their emotions up, and I think they can focus on having a great day of therapy," said Heath Thompson, Ocean Springs Hospital Administrator.
"It's humbling. You don't really think of the small things in life, things that you can get away with, but you come here and it really puts a smile on your face to see how much a little thing like a teddy bear will put on a little child's face," said Mississippi Surge Goalie Dan Clarke.
The Mississippi Surge brought extra teddy bears for the children who couldn't come to the center Monday. Stuffed toys will also be distributed to the pediatric floors at Ocean Springs Hospital and Singing River Hospital.
As many as 2,000 stuffed animals were donated by Mississippi Surge fans who took part in the "Teddy Bear Toss" during a game last month. The toys will also be given to police and fire departments and organizations that work with children in need.