Christmas came early for sick kids at Nepean Hospital, with players from the premiership-winning Penrith Panthers paying them a visit on Wednesday morning.
Armed with several sacks of presents, the players – including superstar Nathan Cleary – donned Santa hats and went from hospital bed to hospital bed to help brighten the day of sick children.
Along with the gift giving, players also posed for photos and signed autographs for the scores of hospital staff and other patients, who were very excited to see them.
Speaking with the Weekender, Cleary said he never gets tired of doing community work like Wednesday’s Children’s Ward visit.
“I really enjoy it and it’s something I never get sick of doing,” he said.
“We’re very lucky to be in the position that we are in, where we can give back and try and make people feel a little bit better.”
Cleary, along with fellow Panthers Mavrick Geyer, Luke Garner, Tyrone Peachey, Soni Luke and Sunia Turuva, also spent time chatting with parents about their children’s respective illnesses.
“It just makes you realise how grateful you are for your own health,” Cleary said.
“A lot of the time you’re worried about such little things, but at the end of the day we’re all healthy and we’re still alive… you just have to be grateful for the little things in life.
“You hear stories from the parents and it makes it feel real. For us, it’s just trying to give back and make it that little bit easier. They’re the ones who are the real tough ones.”
Fairly new to hospital visits, Penrith young guns Turuva and Geyer said it was special for them to see the positive impact they can have on a sick or injured person’s life.
“When I got asked on Monday to do this, I was so keen to come. It’s good to see the smiles on kids’ faces, especially with the stuff they are going through,” Turuva said.
“Connecting with the people of Penrith is the best thing to do ever,” Geyer added.
“It’s so rewarding for both sides – to see the kids how happy they are from us coming to see them.”
Festive hospital visits are becoming an annual tradition for the reigning Premiers, who once again teamed up with long-time sponsor Allam Property Group to help with funding the Christmas presents.
“Panthers came to Allam a few years ago with the initiative and asked if we wanted to be involved,” Allam Property Group Development Director, Adrian Arnaudon said.
“It’s such a great initiative to see the young kids, who are going through a tough time especially this time of year when it should be joyful.
“The Panthers are the best people to put smiles on faces, that’s for sure.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.