Athletes visit Shriners' Hospital

Monday morning the Alabama squad held a spirited two-hour workout in preparation for the Independence Bowl. But off the field, Coach Franchione and the members of the team's Leadership Council met more than 30 children at The Shriners Hospitals of Shreveport.

The players met with the children and presented them with Crimson Tide football t-shirts and caps and signed numerous autographs.

Freddie Milons, Andrew Zow and Jonathan Richey pose with two patients at Shriners' Hospital, one of whom became an instant Alabama fan when he met the players.

Alabama team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson accompanied the team to the hospital and dressed as Santa Claus. His seven-year old daughter, McCall, who dressed as an elf, assisted him. The Robinson's distributed numerous gifts to the children, who are hospitalized over the Christmas holidays.

Before going inside to visit with the children and distribute gifts, members of the Leadership Council posed with Coach Fran, Santa and his beautiful little Elf.

The Shriners Hospitals of Shreveport is a 45-bed pediatric orthopaedic hospital providing comprehensive orthopaedic care to children at no charge. The first Shriners Hospital opened for patient care in September 1922 here in Shreveport. Today, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children, with 18 specializing in orthopaedic care and three in burn care. The other provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care.

Victor Ellis, Shontua Ray and Andrew Zow make a new friend.

Senior safety Shontua Ray, a native of Montevallo, Ala., was touched by his visit to the hospital and enjoyed bringing Christmas joy to the kids.

"To be able to spend time with kids who are sick and in the hospital for Christmas means a lot to me," Ray said. "We were really blessed by the trip to the hospital and I hope they were too.

"To think about all the problems those kids have and the problems in our world, it really makes you appreciate life. God has really blessed us and its good to know that you can play a small part in putting a smile on someone's face at Christmas."

Junior tailback Ahmaad Galloway was glad he made the trip. "It really makes you think," he said afterwards. "You find out just how lucky you are."

Toward the end of the tour, Coach Fran got some foosball lessons from Santa's Elf. (Note Hirchel Bolden showing remarkable restraint in the background)

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