On a blustery cold Saturday morning, the Nationals warmed the hearts of dozens of children seeking medical treatment at Children's National Medical Center.
Families and patients at the facility met with Jim Riggleman, Rob Dibble and several Nationals players to play UNO, color pictures and talk baseball. It was - and always is - the highlight of the winter caravan.
"When you can see the smiles on the parents' faces and on the kids' faces, there's probably a lot of rough times that they go through, but to come down here and at least bring a little joy to them helps their morale," said pitcher Brian Bruney.
"It's definitely good for us to do and when you come here, you wish you did more often."
Riggleman shared a laugh and a hug with a young girl during their game of UNO when it seemed she may have changed the rules on him. Ryan Zimmerman provided some sibling advice and video game tips to other patients while Josh Willingham practiced his Spanish with a young child. And, of course, Nyjer Morgan shared his energy and enthusiasm with the kids.
"I think it's very important for us to do stuff like this," said Matt Capps.
"To see those smiles and the faces light up - this is what it's all about. This is real life. People are going through things every day. It just really makes you appreciate and understand how fortunate we are."
The visit is part of an ongoing partnership between Children's National Medical Center and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. In March of 2007, the Nationals began working with the hospital to raise funds for the development of a Pediatric Diabetes Care Complex. They are very close to raising the five million dollars necessary to begin the program, which will include teaching rooms for Diabetes education, clinical space and simulation labs.
"The beauty of this is that we take care of about 1,800 patients in the capital area, including as far as Richmond and Pennsylvania and this would mean access for all of these patients to use the facility," said Dr. Fran Cogen, Diabetes Program Director and an avid Washington Nationals fan.
"We're getting very close to where we'll be able to start and we're getting very excited about it," said Director of Development Dianne Wicklein.
"We're enormously grateful to the Nationals who have stepped up in a major way to decide that Diabetes, because it's an epidemic - both Type 1 and Type 2 - would be their number one signature cause," said Director of Development Dianne Wicklein.
Dr. Cogen also pointed to the Nationals as role models for living a healthy, active lifestyle and emphasized the importance of exercise and sports in preventing Type 2 Diabetes.
"Having a sports team involved with that is a very important thing," she continued.
More pictures from the Nationals winter caravan are available on MASN's Facebook page!