College and pro athletes create feel-good moments in almost rote fashion these days with well-intentioned sojourns to local hospitals to see sick kids. These brief visits are an image-enhancing dream for publicists, teams, and the folks who drop big money on sports in hopes that fans’ adoration of jocks translates into major profits.
For at least one pro basketball player, though, the power of celebrity provides a quiet, powerful, and poignant way to support pediatric cancer patients in ways that he appreciates in a visceral fashion borne of painful personal experience. The Athletic, the New York Times owned sports-focused site, has posted a moving portrait of Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart and his commitment to comforting kids, reporting this:
“Marcus Smart has spent far too much of his life sitting beside a hospital bed. He endured years watching his brother Todd battle leukemia when Marcus was in elementary school in Texas. He held his mother, Camellia, as she faced bone marrow cancer a few years ago. He is all too familiar with the last place most people want to be. And yet, he keeps going back. When he arrived in Boston as a rookie in 2014, he began making hospital visits quietly — no cameras, no media, no tweets. Smart wanted to spend time with kids who needed a friend and a distraction. Doctors and nurses would introduce him to those who had chemotherapy treatments that morning. They would explain to him how rough the past few days had been for their patients, hoping he could make their day a little easier. ‘Then I get there and everything that the doctor just told me goes out the window,’ Smart said as a smile finally began to peek through. ‘The kid has the biggest smile on her face. They’re getting up, they’re talking, they’re getting out of bed and that right there is what it’s all about for me.’”