Orbit lifts kids' spirits at Ronald McDonald House

Orbit lifts kids' spirits at Ronald McDonald House

HOUSTON -- Orbit has always been a hit with children. And on Wednesday, the Astros' mascot brought joy to kids who have life-threatening medical issues, and their families.

The Astros, represented by Orbit and several front-office members, hosted a three-hour holiday party at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home away from home for families of children undergoing serious medical treatment.

The Astros provided pizza for lunch, courtesy of Papa John's, and distributed Astros baseball caps and shirts. Each child also received an Orbit doll, and each family received a gift bag that included a gift card.

"To be able to kick off the holiday season with a visit from the Astros, with a fun visit from Orbit, and for them to be getting gifts from the Astros is tremendous," said Leslie Bourne, executive director for Ronald McDonald House of Houston.

"For a little while they won't be thinking about what lies ahead of them. The parents won't be thinking about that [upcoming] doctor's visit or that hospitalization. These families are all from out of town. Many from out of state, and some from out of the country. Separated from their family."

Tami Sisemore of Haughton, La., a six-hour drive to Houston, was overwhelmed by what the party meant to her two young boys.

"This is awesome," Sisemore said. "You come back from a hospital this morning, and drama and upset, and then you come here, and smiling faces and food and gifts; you can't beat that.

"When you're so stressed out, and there is so much going on and you're getting bad news, good news. To come here, they're providing food and gifts for the kids. And just the distraction, to take that worry off your mind."

After lunch, Orbit entertained the children, setting off a number of smiles.

This was the second straight year the Astros have provided a party at the Ronald McDonald House off Holcombe Boulevard.

"This is such a wonderful day for us," said Marian Harper, vice president of foundation development of the Houston Astros. "We love the Ronald McDonald House and we love coming over, bringing joy to the children and families that are staying here for this time period.

"We know that it can be tough for them during this time, so we love that we are able to just come over for a couple of hours and bring them a little bit of joy. After we did it last year, we were like, 'We have to be back here again for Christmas.'"

Among the Astros representatives to hand out caps and shirts to the children was Daryl Wade, director of the Astros Urban Youth Academy.

"It says a lot about the Astros organization that they're taking time out of their schedule during the holiday season to make time for us and the families here," said Bourne. "The families love it. They love seeing Orbit. And we appreciate the Astros for doing this for us. It's a wonderful partnership.

"We love partnering with the Astros because we love what they do for the community, and we like being a part of that."

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.