By Stephanie R. Jones
Former National Football League players in Jackson and from across the state put smiles on some of the young patients (and their parents) at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital Wednesday, July 22, by handing out footballs signed by members of the retirees association.
The men of the MS NFL Retired Players Chapter fanned out from floor to floor surprising kids and their parents and taking up a lot of space in the kid-sized rooms.
The youngest child they visited was 3-month-old Piper Pettit who of course knew nothing of what was going on. But her mother Ashton Pettit did and was glad to receive ball.
Her little girl was being treated for a heart condition and was scheduled to leave the hospital the next day. She would going home to Vardaman with a special souvenir that she will understand later.
Then some stopped by the room of 9-year-old Ashton Castillo of Pachuta, near Heidelberg. His little face was a bit banged up and stitched up from a four-wheeler accident.
Eddie Peyton talked to him about the importance of riding a helmet when he rides. He nodded his head in agreement as did his mother Janie Castillo.
Castillo said she was happy the players came to visit her son. “I’m glad they took the time to do this,” she said.
Vernon Perry, president of the recently restarted chapter for retired players said the group passed out 100 balls. “It was unbelievable, like a dream come true to see so many smiles on so many faces,” Perry said. “I can’t describe the feeling I had when I left the hospital.”
John Perkins was at the hospital with his 5-year-old daughter Sarah, who is being treated for Kawasaki disease, commonly found in Asian children, although the family is African American.
Perkins, a chef and preacher with Common Ground Covenant Church in Jackson, said he and his wife Patrice are “learning on the fly” about their daughter’s condition, which involves the heart.
“She was having pain in her chest,” Perkins said. “And she had a fever for 10 days that wouldn’t break.”
He added he wants other to know it is important to make sure heart conditions are detected early. “We’re being proactive to do what we can,” Perkins said.
Sarah, who was expected to be released last week, was happy to see the players and get her football. She played around the room with her 7-year-old brother John Jr., who was even more excited than she was.
John Parker Rush, 8, perked up when the players entered his room. His mother, Wynne Rush said he had undergone hip surgery the day before for perthes disease in his hip, a condition that effects the blood flow to the hip bone. They are from Kosciusko.
Peyton told him about his own hip surgery at about his age but that that didn’t stop him from being able to play in the NFL. “You might be able to do that too if you want,” Peyton encouraged young John.
Then there was one young girl who passed through the lobby who wasn’t on the list to get a ball. She saw what was going on and player Jeffrey Moore stopped to talk to her. He told the other players “we have to give her a ball.”
They found one for her, and she left with a smile.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at email@example.com or (601) 454-0372.