New Jersey Devils Bring Holiday Smiles to Kids At RWJBarnabas Health Hospitals


No NJ mom wants to spend her holiday in the hospital with a sick child. As moms, all we want is to see our kids smiling. So when New Jersey Devils players take time off the ice to bring a little warmth to a child who is suffering, it’s so heartwarming— a true bright spot for the little fan and their family. During the holidays, the New Jersey Devils make an annual visit to patients at each RWJBarnabas Health hospital across New Jersey, bringing along autographs, encouraging words, and, of course, some cool Devils swag.

New Jersey Devils Players Deliver Holiday Joy This Year

It’s a chance for the kids to forget about their medical battles and get a little one-on-one time with athletes they look up to. We tagged along with Devil’s goalie Akira Schmid as he made his way through Children’s Specialized Hospital, visiting patients and spreading some much-needed holiday cheer. Watching him walking up to the door and seeing these kids with an ear-to-ear smile melts the hearts and cuts through the trying times each patient and their families are experiencing.

For NJ mom Kelly DeMatteo, this visit means the world. Just a few short weeks ago, her son Connor was in critical condition after a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. “They weren’t sure he was going to make it,” said DeMatteo. “They transferred him here once he stabilized a little bit, and they’re amazing here.” Spending time with an NJ Devil is the highlight of a holiday season that, for Connor, has been incredibly difficult. “It means a lot to me. Seeing anybody famous is a big deal, especially when they’re doing things with charity,” Connor tells us.

njdevils players at hospitalHow Children’s Specialized Hospital is making the holiday season brighter for patients 

Children’s Specialized Hospital patients are typically being treated for chronic disease or as they recover from serious injuries. For many of them, like Connor, their stays can be lengthy and grueling. Christina Dellibovi, who is Children’s Specialized Hospital’s Senior Childhood Life Specialist, says that’s why events like this visit are so important. “None of our kids choose to be here, especially at the holidays. So when they get to have an extra visit come in from someone who they can look up to, and they can see on TV, and they can look back on, it just leaves that positive memory for them,” Dellibovi says.

nj devils players at nj hospitals

Many of the same Devils players return year after year, including Schmid, who says he looks forward to the visit and helping lift spirits. “It means a lot to see the appreciation. It’s the least we can do to come out here, say hi, give them a little Devil’s Beanie, talk to them for a bit,” he says. “Just to see what they’re going through, we get a sense of what they have to deal with every day.” For Connor and his family, this will be a forever memory- a bright spot in an otherwise traumatic and trying time. “Children’s Specialized Hospital has changed our lives. They’re great with these kids- the nurses, the therapists, the doctors,” says DeMatteo. 

Children’s Specialized Hospital
200 Somerset St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health, which strives for the highest level of care for every #NJMOM and her kids.


About Author

Marisa is a mom to two sweet boys and a little lady (all under 4!) as well as one precious girl in heaven and her heart. A true Jersey girl, Marisa loves raising her family here and embracing all that being a #NJMOM has to offer. Whether it's summer days on Spring Lake beach or down on LBI, or heading out to sample some of the state's best eats (Montclair and Jersey City are favs), family days out and about together are her favorite way to spend a weekend. A former news anchor turned on-air lifestyle host and expert, you might also catch her on TV or in the kitchen cooking up something delish for the littles.