Greg Pino sat in his wheelchair and wiped a tear from his eye. But standing around him at City of Hope, members of his family were all smiles. They had just successfully pulled a fast one on the 44-year-old hockey fan, and he was crying not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy.
Pino, a Moreno Valley, Calif., resident in treatment for a type of brain tumor called glioblastoma, was the victim of subterfuge parlayed by his wife, Maggie, daughter, Amanda, sister, Melanie Jones, and nephew, Elliot Shelley-Jones. They had lured him to an unfamiliar conference room under the pretense that some sort of medication was awaiting him there.
|Members of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team recently visited City of Hope. (Scroll down to view a slide show of images. Photos by Thomas Brown.)|
Instead, he found a surprise: Several members of his favorite National Hockey League team, the Los Angeles Kings, had journeyed to City of Hope from their STAPLES Center home to meet and support patients and their families, caregivers and friends.
Players Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, Jarret Stoll, Davis Drewiske, Teddy Purcell and Dustin Brown and mascot Bailey handed out gifts and signed autographs at the Dec. 22 visit with dozens of patients and family members. The Los Angeles Kings have dedicated January as their “Month of Hope” in support of City of Hope. The team donated a portion from each ticket sold for home games in January.
As toddler Cassidy Copeland and her aunt, Lupe Rigg, made their way to Stoll for an autograph, the Kings center playfully asked Cassidy, “Is that a Christmas shirt you’re wearing?”
The curly-haired girl clutched her purple stuffed bear and smiled shyly. “Uh-huh,” she nodded.
Stoll smiled back. “It’s very pretty,” he said.
It was unclear who was enjoying the moment more.
Meanwhile, Greg Pino, who had quickly changed into his Kings hockey jersey, spoke quietly with Simmonds about hockey and his love of the Kings.
“How long have you been a fan?” Simmonds asked.
“A long time,” replied Pino. “Since 1980 or so. Since the days of [Luc] Robitaille and everyone.”
Simmonds looked impressed. “Yeah, that’s a long-time fan, all right,” he said.
Simmonds, whose grandmother died from breast cancer, was clearly touched by the encounter and the chance to bring a little cheer to Pino and other patients.
“This is amazing,” he said. “Any chance I have to support patients fighting this disease, I’m up for it.”
For his part, Pino was thrilled by the chance to hobnob with his beloved Kings players, and was grateful to his family for the surprise gift and their selfless support.
“This is the best,” he said. “My family’s been wonderful. My wife’s keeping it all together. She’s so strong.”
Maggie Pino credits her husband of 13 years equally. “I admire him; he’s such a fighter,” she remarked, as they both fought back tears.
“It’s okay,” she said to him knowingly.
A few minutes later, as the players bid their farewells and readied to leave, Kings captain Brown summed up the event and what it meant to his team. “It’s tough sometimes, but the patients are fighting so hard,” he said. “We really enjoy these visits and putting smiles on their faces. They’re really extraordinary people.”
The L.A. Kings’ Month of Hope supports the Music and Entertainment Industry’s Spirit of Life® effort, in which City of Hope honored Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of AEG, with The Spirit of Life Award. The presenting sponsor was San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and Flexjet was the official jet sponsor for the event.
To purchase tickets for the last game of Month of Hope, on Jan. 21, visit www.lakings.com/hope.