Sacramento Republic FC scored big with UC Davis Children's Hospital patients when they visited Thursday morning.
Coach Preki, midfielder Rodrigo "RoRo" Lopez and technical director Graham Smith brought cheer to the Pediatrics Unit playroom, signing autographs, playing board games and talking with patients and their families in the playroom. Patients also received Sac Republic FC stickers and tattoos, which they wore with pride.
The group also went bedside to visit with some young patients who were too ill to leave their room.
Patient Alan Navarro-Moreno, 15, enjoyed shaking hands and taking photos with Preki, Smith and Lopez before being discharged that day.
"He plays soccer competitively and was so excited to meet Sac Republic FC," said Diana Sundberg, manager of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department, who helped to coordinate the visit. "He is already a fan."
For the Sacramento's professional soccer team, the feeling was mutual.
"At the end of the day, these kids are the real heroes," said Lopez. "My family is like many of these families, in which childhood memories include not just birthday parties and an afternoon at the park, but visits with doctors and hospitals. The courage these children embody, including my own son who is diagnosed with an aortic stenosis, is greater than anything I will ever endure as an adult. If for only a few minutes, I can make them feel the joys of childhood, through a smile or visit, then it is the least I can do for them and their families."