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Posted July 9, 2013
Tampa Bay Rays Extend Their Winning Streak at All Children's Hospital

Jeremy Hellickson
Jeremy Hellickson and Raymond cheer up a patient
Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson makes a new friend
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is known for his cool demeanor on the mound and his quiet, close-lipped manner in general. But with the young patients at All Children's, the 26-year-old righthander connected with warmth and ease as he made a return visit to the hospital Tuesday morning.

Hellickson, Rays infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson and furry mascot Raymond teamed up to spread some cheer on the latest visit of Tampa Bay players in 2013 - this one in conjunction with Sagicor, a financial services company and corporate sponsor of the team.

On the eighth floor, Hellickson and Raymond sat and a small table in the playroom, coloring with 5-year-old Dahlia Tynes. She was too shy to speak, so the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year engaged her in a little conversation. "Do you ever color outside the lines?" he said, admiring the drawing of a snail she was working on. She managed a soft, "No," but perked up with a chance to pose for a photo with her two surprise guests. "This is really exciting; she's a just little overwhelmed," her mother, Mandy, explained as she snapped a few photos to capture the surprise visit.

Victoria Santoleri, a Rays fan, was more effusive when Hellickson and Raymond popped into her room. Now 20, she has been a frequent visitor to All Children's for kidney issues, and now a stomach problem. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed, insisting on slowly climbing out of her bed to embrace her two guests.

"I always wanted to meet Jeremy Hellickson," she said. "I've seen him pitch a lot, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, I love him, I love him!' And when he gave me a hug, it was so nice."

Hellickson and Johnson, who spent his time on the seventh floor, even double-teamed one patient who had who had undergone her  101st surgery the day before. "You're very brave," Johnson said. "Glad you're bouncing back."

It was the type of moment that made the visit so worthwhile for patients and players (so far this season, the Rays have been represented at All Children's by Alex Cobb, Jamey Wright, Desmond Jennings, Cesar Ramos, Sam Fuld, Joel Peralta - and now Hellickson and Johnson).

"It means the world to us," Johnson said. "Some of the kids and parents are bigger fans than the ones who come out to the park, but they're confined to a room and cheering just as loud. It's so cool to be able to come over here and reach out for them."

 "A lot of these kids are not doing too well, and they need a boost," Hellickson said. "It's nice to come put a smile on their faces. I love doing this. And it makes us feel just as good."