Originally created 11/17/06

Umps' hospital visit is a big hit with young patients



Like a lot of 11-year-old boys, Marquis Lawrence isn't often a fan of baseball umpires.

But he and about 30 other patients at the Medical College of Georgia's Children's Medical Center were fans Thursday morning.

Four professional baseball umpires from Georgia, including seven-year Major League veteran Marvin Hudson, stopped by to offer words of encouragement and distribute stuffed bears to pediatric patients.

The visit marked the sixth hospital-based event of the year for BLUE for Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization Hudson co-founded for community outreach initiatives of pro sports officials.

"It makes him happy and helps keep his mind off what he's going through," said Marquis' mother, Tonya Lawrence, of Washington County. "I'm really glad they do stuff for the kids like this."

Marquis has battled a desmoplastic round cell tumor for about 11 months, but the visit from Hudson, Jon Merry (Triple-A), Scott Childers (Double-A) and Craig Barron (Single-A) brought a smile to his face.

"We want to make sure these kids know that we know they're here and that they haven't been forgotten just because they're in the hospital," said Hudson, whose daughter came through the MCG children's unit in the late 1990s.

"Sometimes they don't feel good, but if you can walk in and brighten their day just a little bit, it makes it worthwhile," Hudson said.

Hudson, from Marietta, Ga., helped form the BLUE for Kids initiative a couple of years ago with Samuel Dearth. He said he hopes the number of visits increases to 12 or 15 for next year and expands into other pro sports.

"To give back and do something positive, especially for children, is a great thing," said Childers, who is from Augusta. "If you can just see a smile or a laugh or highlight their day, that's what it's all about."

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.