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Umps, Phanatic help provide a little fun

Umps, Phanatic help provide a little fun

UMPS CARE Charities and the Phillie Phanatic combined to bring a memorable day to patients at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on May 26. Major League Baseball umpires John Hirschbeck, Wally Bell, Marty Foster and Marvin Hudson -- in town to work the series between the Phillies and Blue Jays -- joined forces with the furry green Phanatic to distribute Build-A-Bears to the sick children, including many "Build-A-Phanatics."

The umpires and the loveable Philly mascot went room-to-room for 90 minutes, bringing smiles and support.

Samantha Palmieri of Children's Hospital said, "Every day since the visit, I have seen children on their way to treatments, the cafeteria, and on walk with the Build-A-Bears" brought to the patients."

Palmieri added that the visit allowed the kids "to forget about being hospitalized, if only for a short time. The visit will not be soon forgotten."

UMPS CARE Charities is a non-profit organization founded by MLB Umpires and provides Build-A-Bear Workshops for children coping with serious illness. The workshop is partly the brainchild of Marvin Hudson, who put on the first workshop by himself at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore in 2006 with 35 bears. This was Hudson's eighth hospital visit, and the 32nd overall for UMPS CARE Charities.

Hudson had no idea at the start just how popular the program would become -- both with the patients and the umpires. He started with leaving tickets at ballgames for organizations, and soon added these hospital trips.

"The guys I work with have come aboard and helped with it," Hudson said. "We may not all get to do a hospital visit, but we all take part in leaving tickets and giving these kids an experience that they may never have and put a smile on these kids' faces."

It may be a small gesture, but it's one that means a lot to both sides.

"One thing always happens with the kids that makes you know that it's really worthwhile," Hudson said. "He or she may have had a bad day or bad night, and this bear maybe helps them out of that. I see how fortunate I am to have my kids and my health."

Fellow umpire Marty Foster, on his third visit, talked about how the event affects the umpires as well.

"The first time was kind of surreal but the way I felt afterwards was unbelievable. It was unlike anything I could imagine," Foster said. "There is nothing that can happen on the baseball field that will upset me after I go on one of those visits."

Both umpires talked about one little girl in particular from the visit. A patient herself, she nonetheless followed the group around as their little helper, making sure every child on her floor got a stuffed animal and everyone was happy.

"I'll never forget her smile or her face," Foster said.

UMPS CARE Charities is proud to work with its corporate sponsors on this program, and invites sponsor representatives to attend each event. Fran Epstein of Bristol-Myers Squibb joined the group in Philadelphia and came away impressed.

"I am so proud to work for a company who supports such a wonderful program," Epstein said. "I really enjoyed seeing the children with smiles on their faces when Marvin, Marty, Wally, and John gave them a choice of stuffed animal. The umpires and the Phillie Phanatic really hit a home run today and I simply felt privileged to represent Bristol-Myers Squibb at the event."

Other sponsors of the program include Gerry Davis Sports, The World Umpires Association, and MLB.com.

For event photos and more information about the program --including how to donate for a stuffed animal -- please visit www.UmpsCare.com. The Web site also includes information about the foundation's other events, including the 2nd Annual UMPS CARE Charities Golf Marathon. Hudson is one of many participants who will raise money for charity and play 100 holes of golf in one day. To sponsor Hudson, visit www.UmpsCare.com and choose "UMPS CARE Charities Golf Marathon" from the Events menu. A link to Hudson's personal fundraising page, plus the pages for the other golfers, appears in the tab labeled "Sponsor a Golfer."

Kevin Cuddihy is an associate editor for a publishing company. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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