Rough and tough Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons brought his soft side and "Shadow Buddies" therapy dolls to a Long Beach children's hospital on Thursday, delivering some much needed sunshine into the lives of young patients.
Two days after FOX Sports and NFL Insider's Jay Glazer reported that Gonzalez told the Falcons he would return to the team for another season, the player known as the most productive tight end in NFL history visited Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach.
With his wife, October, and his mom, Judy Gonzalez, the Pro Bowl player brought along about 100 of his buddies dolls to help the children cope with their challenging illnesses and conditions.
"Shadow Buddies" dolls are designed to be "just like me" support for children. There are 20 different varieties, including dolls that have "experienced" day surgery, chemotherapy and diabetes. The dolls help children learn not only about the treatment they are receiving, but empower them to focus on healing rather than worrying.
Gonzalez and Matt Cassell are the only two NFL players who have their own Shadow Buddies projects. Since 1998, The Tony Gonzalez Foundation has focused on assisting children with emotional and educational support through the Shadow Buddies Foundation. More than 52,500 Shadow Buddies have been created, with Gonzales personally delivering over 21,000 of them.
“You score a touchdown and you feel that adrenaline rush. But this is different. It’s in my heart,” Gonzales said in a statement.
Watching the way he passes out smiles, the patients and their parents would not likely disagree.
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