The escort in Park Ridge resembled a U.S. presidential motorcade, except this one was right on time – 2 p.m. sharp – when three black, muscular SUVs and two lit-up Park Ridge police squads swung authoritatively into the circle drive at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
Soon, the motorcade’s revered star was surrounded by admirers, all waiting to “touch it.”
Out stepped 3-foot-high Stanley and his escort, John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks.
On Saturday, The Stanley Cup – the championship trophy of the National Hockey League – visited the medical campus on Dempster Street for 90 minutes of photos with children on the pediatrics floor, their families and wide-eyed Blackhawks fans.
Still somewhat breathless over the Hawks’ hard-fought championship win over the Boston Bruins in June, fans were ready.
All wearing Hawks gear, Bashar Jazrawi of Niles sat with his two sons in the hospital’s first-floor lobby.
“We can’t get to the games – a little pricey. It’s the first time we get to see the cup. My boys want to touch it,” Jazrawi said.
Fans and hospital employees waited in a long hallway line, while a half dozen photographers snapped pictures of the ailing children, many docile but seemingly happy.
Joseph Anderson’s daughter, Lyla, at 3 ½ years old, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and was at the hospital Friday for chemotherapy when she had a bad reaction.
“It’s kind of catch-22 here for us. She had the bad reaction and had to stay, but she got to see the Stanley Cup,” said Anderson of Carpentersville. “This is a wonderful hospital. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Several hospital administrators and village officials greeted fans and families.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen the Cup. I watch the Blackhawks all the time, and Park Ridge has a lot of fans. We’re overrun,” said Park Ridge Mayor David Schmidt, laughing.
McDonough has lived in the Park Ridge area for several years.
“The great thing about winning the Cup is that we can share it with everybody,” said McDonough, evoking a cheer. “This hospital has always been a wonderful spot in my heart.”
While the gleaming, silver trophy made rounds to hospital rooms, people cleared hallways and lobbies, smiling and pointing as if seeing Santa Claus.
Nurses and patient aids hooted, squealed and reached over the nurse’s station to touch the cup.
“I’m a big Chicago-fan anything,” said Jen Narug, a nurse care technician and Bloomingdale resident. “Actually seeing it is really cool.”
Some children stood next to the cup for photos, or were held by fathers while some waited in wheelchairs in their rooms.
Armando Valdolinos, 16, of Berwyn, was born with cerebral palsy and can only communicate on a computer using his head to activate commands.
“He’s a big sports fan, and we hung a Blackhawks calendar in his room during the championship. He loves all kinds of sports,” said his mother, Anna.
In an occasionally somber place, where improving a child’s health is a constant priority, hospital workers welcomed Saturday’s diversion for cancer and traumatized patients.
“It’s lifting for them,” said Des Plaines resident Karen Harkovich, an assistant manager on the pediatrics floor. “It takes them out of the medical setting to be children again.”