A unique visitor sat inside the Hillman Cancer Center front entrance Monday, greeting patients and their families as they came in through the revolving door. He even spent some time in the revolving door – going around and around and around.
Iceburgh, the official mascot of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was at the center along with coach Mike Johnston and assistant coaches Rick Tocchet and Gary Agnew to meet patients. But despite Iceburgh’s antics, the visit also had a serious mission: to distribute hats to patients, especially men who don’t have as many options for head coverings if they lose their hair during treatment.
“Many of our female patients wear colorful head scarves or hats donated to the center,” said Stanley Marks, M.D., chairman, UPMC CancerCenter, who was in attendance with Nancy Davidson, M.D., director of UPMC CancerCenter and its partner, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. “But one of our volunteers noticed that men didn’t have as many options and wanted to change that.”
That volunteer was Heather Hillier, whose husband, Randy, is a former Penguin. Through the generosity of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Hillier was able to get a large donation of hats for patients.
So the coaching staff, accompanied by their black-and-gold furry friend, went from room to room at the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers on Monday greeting patients and signing hats – for both men and women.
Joy Clayton, a patient from Hartstown, Pa., smiled from ear-to-ear when she saw the visitors approach. Clayton was sitting in a treatment bay receiving chemotherapy as Iceburgh knelt down in front of her and gave her a fuzzy smooch.
“I’ve never been kissed by a penguin before,” Clayton beamed, as she put the hat he presented to her over her pink and white head scarf. “I just love this guy!”
Coach Johnston said as much as the patients are thrilled to see them, the coaches are just as excited to meet and chat with patients.
“It’s special if we can give something back and make their day a little brighter,” he said.