Packers alumni surprise patients at Marshfield Children's Hospital during Tailgate Tour
MARSHFIELD - It was all smiles at Marshfield Children's Hospital on Tuesday, as Green Bay Packers alumni visited with patients and families during the team's annual statewide tour.
The 2019 Packers Tailgate Tour made a surprise stop at the hospital. Former Packers Nick Barnett, Earl Dotson, Ryan Grant, Bernardo Harris, Aaron Kampman and Scott Wells walked the halls of the hospital, shaking hands with staff members and chatting with patients and families.
Kampman, who played for the Packers as a defensive end from 2002 to 2009, said it was a rewarding experience to meet with the patients and brighten their day a little. Though the kids do get excited to meet the players, they're all just human, he said.
"Wearing this jersey is an honor, but we're just talking people to people," Kampman said.
Dotson, who was a right tackle for the Packers from 1993 to 2002, said seeing the smiles on the kids' faces was amazing.
"It's nice to give back to the fans that gave so much to us," Dotson said.
The message the Packers alumni wanted to convey to the kids is to keep fighting, but they know the kids already do that every day, he said.
Barnett, a linebacker for the Packers from 2003 to 2013, echoed that sentiment, saying the kids are inspiring the former players, not the other way around. Whether they're visiting kids in the hospital or addressing a gym full of students, Barnett said the effect is the same.
"You leave there a lot different than when you came in," he said.
The Packers alumni visited several patients, including Morgan Hansmann, 13, of Tomahawk. She said the visit meant a lot to her and helped take her mind off being in the hospital. Though she's hasn't been to Lambeau Field to see the Packers play, she's hoping to make it there this fall.
This isn't the first time Packers past or present have visited the hospital. The Tailgate Tour previously made a stop at Marshfield Children's Hospital in June 2016, and former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews also visited patients there last month.
The tour also surprised students at Ben Franklin Junior High in Stevens Point and Clintonville High School Tuesday. The players will also make stops in Sparta, New Richmond, Chippewa Falls and Antigo.
Sushma Thapetta, a doctor at the Marshfield Children's Hospital, said the players brought a little bit of joy, fun and happiness to kids who are going through something difficult.
"(Something like this) brings joy and excitement to their little tiny hearts," Thapetta said.
Contact USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporter Melissa Siegler at (715) 345-2249 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Marie2Melissa.