‘Means so much:’ Marquette basketball players visit patients at Children’s Hospital for ‘Winter Carnival’

MILWAUKEE -- It can be hard to feel the happiness and excitement of the holiday season when a child is in the hospital. Members of the Marquette University men's basketball team visited Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in an effort to bring some Christmas cheer to patients and their families.

The lobby at CHW was transformed into a Christmas wonderland during the annual "Winter Carnival" for patients and their families.

"It's beautiful. It's love, hope. It's inspiring. It's beautiful," said Antonio Rodriguez, father of Jayla, a patient at CHW.

Marquette University men's basketball visits Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

"When you're in the hospital, you can't always experience what you and I are used to experiencing on the outside, so having the opportunity to participate in an event like this, be together with the family and celebrating with the family, I think, means so much," said Lori Gottwein, CHW.

Marquette University men's basketball visits Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

There were some special visitors, in addition to Santa Claus.

"We have a visit from Santa. We have some of our therapy dogs dressed up like reindeer. Some of the Marquette players have joined us this year," said Gottwein.

"Got to meet Marquette players, Buddy the Elf, Santa's over here. This is a beautiful thing," said Antonio Rodriguez.

"It's for a bigger cause, and it's bigger than Marquette basketball, bigger than any of us. It's people who can't necessarily be with their families are here, so we are coming to them, trying to bring them some Christmas cheer, and lighten the mood a little bit with this little carnival thing, and for us too, it's nice to get a little break from studying from finals and stuff and come here and kind of get your mind off of it -- really learn to appreciate all the things to be thankful for in our lives," said Matt Heldt, Golden Eagles center.

The Marquette University basketball players weren't shy when it came to spreading the holiday spirit.

Marquette University men's basketball visits Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

"They've jumped right in. I think some of them are supporting some of our Winter Carnival games. They're kind of over my right here at the Selfie Station, so kids can take a photo with props and with them, and then members of the team are also visiting patients who are unable come down to the lobby too, so they are able to see them bedside," said Gottwein.

Marquette University men's basketball visits Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

They also helped out the carolers -- and made the day for patients and their families.

Marquette University men's basketball visits Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

"They took a picture with all of them, stood around him upstairs in his room and they took a picture with him. He just broke down crying. He was so happy. It was amazing. You couldn't ask for nothing more for a kid. I mean, that's amazing," said Ellioc Gauz, father of David, a patient at CHW.

Sam Hauser, Golden Eagles forward, said it was just one of the great reasons to be on the team.

Jayla Rodriguez

"It's a lot of fun, and for us to come in here and have the impact that we do, it's using our status to our advantage to help these kids out and make their day and bringing the Christmas spirit to them when they need it the most," said Hauser.

"I think it is so cool and I can't wait for Christmas," said Jayla Rodriguez, patient at CHW.

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