LOS ANGELES— Seven members of the LA Galaxy received a firsthand look at the LA Galaxy Foundation’s work with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles with a visit to the facility.
During the nearly two-hour-long visit, the Galaxy players A.J. DeLaGarza, Landon Donovan, Todd Dunivant, Rob Friend, Baggio Husidic, Tommy Meyer and Brain Rowe posed for photos and visited patients while also touring the hospital’s Sports Medicine facilities with Dr. David Skaggs Chief, Children's Orthopedic Center & Director, Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Program and Dr. Tracy Zaslow who is the Medical Director, COC Sports Medicine and Concussion Program as well one of LA’s team physicians.
“You realize the more that you [go on these hospital visits] that these kids have not had a great experience and to have the chance for them to see people and interact with them is great,” said Donovan. “The hospital does a great job of taking care of everyone and making the environment good, but the kids are dealing with things that they don’t want to be dealing with so to have a chance to see some people that really want to see them is nice. I think that we all enjoy it too.”
Added Rowe, “To know that we’re able to contribute and give time from our day makes such a lasting impact on you. It’s a really humbling experience.”
Thursday’s visit was part of a long-standing relationship between the Galaxy, the team’s foundation and CHLA who have been partners for several years. Over the next two years, the LA Galaxy Foundation has made a $100,000 financial commitment to support CHLA. The funds from this donation will primarily benefit CHLA’S Sports Medicine program which is the only pediatric sports medicine facility in Southern California.
The Galaxy and CHLA will also be teaming up for this Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers as the hospital will serve as the presenting sponsor for “This is LA” day at StubHub Center.
“I think that [Galaxy club President] Chris Klein has done a great job making us an even deeper part of the community,” said Donovan. “For me, I was born in L.A. and I was raised in L.A., I grew up watching the team, I’ve played here for 10 years and it’s important to be engrained in the community in a real way. Sometimes organizations will donate money or put their names behind things, but this is different. This is something that impacts people.”
The trip was especially meaningful for DeLaGarza, who is scheduled to have his first child Luca on August 26. For the first month of his life, Luca will be staying at CHLA as he overcomes Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart defect in which the heart has just one completely functioning ventricle. In HLHS, the structures of the left side of the heart are too underdeveloped to provide enough blood flow for the body.
The diagnosis has been difficult for DeLaGarza and his wife Megan, but he admitted that visiting the hospital provided him some comfort about the care that his son will receive.
“For me personally, my son will be a patient here and it’s good to see the families supporting their kids,” said DeLaGarza. “I’m glad to be here, but this particular trip wasn’t about me today. It was about making the other children smile today, but maybe the guys can visit Luca when he’s born.”
Children –and the rest of the visiting party—at the hospital were certainly left with a smile on their face when Donovan and a four-year-old patient Audrey performed a puppet show in one of the hospital’s play rooms. The experience was a new one 32-yearold Donovan, but a memorable one.
“It was the first puppet show that I’ve ever done, but Audrey was really sweet and she really wanted to do it,” he said. “I made the most of the opportunity and I played the [role] that I was dealt. I was the Zebra, which wasn’t my first choice, but she wanted it. When you’re given stripes, you play a Zebra.”
The show was a big hit, but don’t expect Donovan to be reprising his role with any future performances.
“[Bruce Arena] would probably say that I’m a better puppeteer than I am a soccer player on some days,” Donovan joked. “So maybe I should just devote myself full time to this.”