Volunteers were hard at work Saturday morning, digging, planting and mulching as part of landscaping work to the front of the annex. National non-profit Rebuilding Together leads the renovations, which also include play areas for patients' children, a healing garden and improving the clinic offices and meetings areas.
Despite the excessive Kansas City heat, volunteers from Bank of America, as well as the hospital itself, pressed on.
"Bank of America: the employees that come out here and volunteer their time on a day that's 105 [degrees]. We have employees that came out today, volunteering their time. We have physicians, we have a surgeon out there digging in the dirt. I love it," said Glenna Greer, the VA hospital's public affairs director. "Events like this pull a community together."
Greer said that Cook and the Royals identified the annex as a cause they wanted to support last fall.
"He didn't tell us it was tied to the All-Star Game," Greer said. "I realized later what he was doing: They were looking at a lot of different venues to check out on making donations. We were selected. Our veterans were selected. And I will tell you that the value that has come out of this is truly a legacy. I think that MLB, the Kansas City Royals, Rebuilding Together can be so proud of what they're leaving here. We will always have veterans, so the legacy just continues. I think it's been a lot of fun. Baseball is so America. It ties in well."
The annex's renovations are one of many community improvements that are being made and celebrated this week thanks to the arrival of the All-Star Game.
"We say that it's hard to pick a favorite, but it's also hard not to say that doing something with the military and veterans is not your favorite," Cook said. "When [MLB] told us as a part of All-Star Week we'd be doing these lasting legacy programs, we knew that we had a year's worth of work ahead of us. We also knew that it was going to be very gratifying at the end. And it's been a lot of work, but it's always a payoff each time we come to something like this. The veterans and the U.S. military is a very high priority for Royals Charities. These aren't Royals Charities dollars, these are coming from All-Star, but we're the ones that have kind of been on the ground here in Kansas City to do it. And it's very cool to see this come to fruition."
And, it wouldn't be an All-Star event without a little bit of star power. Royals Hall of Famer George Brett, MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan, Royals owner David Glass and U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II were all on hand for the celebration.
The Royals and MLB will be moving from one community improvement to another as the weekend progresses, and Cook said that all the work put into these causes seems to be wrapped up in an instant.
"That's the funny thing about this: We worked literally an entire year, and then -- boom -- one event's done, then another event's done," Cook said. "This is sort of about the lasting legacy part. Our whole deal is because the All-Star Game came to Kansas City in 2012, this field got renovated, or this Boys & Girls Club got renovated or the VA was able to get further down the road to opening this annex for post-traumatic stress disorder patients. So it's been very gratifying."