By GAUTAMA MEHTA
Coach Amber Stocks, center Stefanie Dolson and forward Cheyenne Parker of the Chicago Sky visited La Rabida Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 8, to spread inspiration—and Sky-themed merchandise—to the hospital’s young patients.
They were accompanied by team mascot Sky Guy who, due to the combination of his muscle suit, giant foam head, general resemblance to a life-size action figure, and apparently boundless energy, ended up frightening more children than he entertained. Sky Guy never spoke, even to the players, instead communicating through exaggerated comic gestures.
Parker was in a wheelchair due to an ankle injury—although Stocks cautioned that Parker was still being evaluated by doctors, noting that “injury” is a loaded term in sports.
The first patient the WNBA team encountered at La Rabida was a 1-year-old boy named King Smith who was driving down the hospital hallway in a Hot Wheels toy car. King was initially too shy to accept any of the Sky-branded toys the basketball players offered him, and stubbornly held a piece of paper over his eyes until Parker finally managed to barter a blue ball in exchange for a fist bump.
A group of nurses asked for a photo with the players. As they posed, Stocks, Dolson and Parker stood behind the row of nurses, towering several heads above them, while Sky Guy relaxed in Parker’s wheelchair in the foreground.
The team approached the hospital room of an 8-month-old girl named Londyn, who had been at the hospital since April for treatment of her epilepsy, and was going home soon. Her family members were understandably more excited by the unexpected appearance of a women’s basketball team than she was; her sister Ta’Miyan, 8, said she was nervous when they first came in, “because I never met basketball players before.”
One of the players asked if she played sports. “Sometimes I play basketball when I’m at school, in my gym,” said Ta’Miyan.
“I play virtual sports,” said a third sister, Takiyan, 10.
The Chicago Sky plays real sports, but will soon be involved in “virtual sports” as well: the popular basketball video game series NBA Live has just announced it will feature WNBA players in its upcoming release, NBA Live 18, for the first time. Dolson called this development “pretty awesome,” adding, “Hopefully we get some more fans from it.”
The team descended upon another hospital room. Stocks introduced herself and the players, boasting that Dolson was a two-time WNBA all-star.
“If you guys watch the game, she’s number 32 and I’m number 31,” said Dolson.
“And I’m the mean one,” said the coach.
The patient they were visiting, a 17-year-old girl named Alize, an Englewood resident, was the victim of a gunshot wound to the head. She had been in the hospital since June, and was unable to speak except by use of a computer. Her mother and younger brother were there with her.
Stocks gave the family six tickets to any Sky games this season.
The Chicago Sky and La Rabida are charity partners, said Alex Teodosi, the Sky’s business development coordinator. This wasn’t the team’s first visit to the hospital.
On Friday, Aug. 18, the team hosted a benefit game against the Los Angeles Sparks, with the proceeds going to La Rabida. The game will feature La Rabida patients who will get to be a “Player for a Day,” and another who will sing the national anthem before the game. Tickets are available online at chicagosky.net.
“It really humbles you to be able to see the impact that we have, and see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Dolson after the team’s visit to the hospital had ended.