Nats stars plus gingerbread equals joy for sick children

WASHINGTON – A morning snow storm was not enough to stop members of the Washington Nationals from spreading a little holiday joy.

They showed up Tuesday morning at a Christmas party for kids with cancer and blood disorders at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Pitcher Ross Detwiler and outfielder Denard Span helped the young patients build a gingerbread stadium — a replica of Nationals Park in cookies and candy.

They also passed out presents and posed for pictures with the children and some of their parents. And for those who were too ill to attend the party, there were private visits in their hospital rooms.

The visit was part of the Nats “Week of Giving” in conjunction with the Hope for Henry Foundation, which arranges in-hospital events for kids with cancer and other serious diseases. Their efforts resulted in a morning that the kids will never forget.

Detwiler — all 6-foot-plus of him — in a tiny kid-sized chair with a tube of green icing, helped fill in the stadium field.

“It is really all about the kids here,” he says. “If we can bring some joy to them over the holidays, that is what we are here for.”

Nearby, Denard Span looks on as 13-year-old RyAnn Watson of Silver Spring decorates a Christmas cookie. They talk about siblings and sweets as if old friends.


Denard Span helps build a gingerbread stadium with a new friend. (WTOP/Paula Wolfson)

“I like talking to the players,” she says with a grin.

It’s that smile that matters to Span.

“We came out today just to have some fun with the kids, play with the kids, and put a smile on their face,” he says.

Watkins has sickle cell disease that has resulted in extreme back pain. She moves in a wheel chair with an IV drip at her side. But her spirit is strong, and her appreciation of the players is genuine. Their visit is like an early holiday gift, she explains.

‘”You don’t always need something tangible,” she says. “It’s the fact there are people out there who care for you and your well-being. That is a really good Christmas present.”

Ten-year old Ryan Darby of Bethesda is also thrilled to meet the Nationals. But he wants something more for Christmas — a World Series trophy.

His wish brings a chuckle from Detwiler, who says, “that’s kinda what I want for Christmas too.”

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up