Children’s Mercy patients surprise Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi
The young patients gathered in a hospital room, dispersed toward different tables and quickly got to work. Some drew. Some wrote. Some pasted pictures onto sheets of poster board.
Once per month, they sit here and peek up at the door as they construct their artwork, waiting to see which special guests might arrive. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came through here. Former Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer did, too. The purpose is to surprise the kids.
But on Tuesday, Sporting Kansas City star Graham Zusi wasn’t in on the surprise.
The kids were.
As Zusi walked through the door for his usual visit, the Children’s Mercy Hospital patients reversed the roles. They held up signs. They clutched pictures of his face. One displayed a jersey.
All to inform him of this: Zusi has been named part of the MLS All-Star Fan XI. It is his seventh all-star selection.
None with more memorable reveals.
“You’re gonna make me cry,” Zusi said.
And then he did.
Zusi comes here often. The hospital welcomes Sporting KC players monthly, volunteer program coordinator Trista Williams said. Zusi, the team’s humanitarian of the year in 2018, rarely misses a visit.
On Tuesday, as he strolled down the hallway with teammates Kelyn Rowe, Seth Sinovic and Daniel Salloi not far behind, he thought it would be like any of his previous trips. He planned to play Uno and a game called Toilet Trouble, in which the kids laugh as water sprays his face.
They’re typically unsure who will visit, though they expect Sporting KC players on the third Tuesday of the month. This time, they were ready for him.
He wasn’t ready for them.
“I was completely caught off guard,” Zusi said as his eyes welled up with tears. “Just an amazing feeling. If anyone knew me, this is not what I like as a person — to do it in front of a crowd.
“But if it had to be done, this is the way.”
Zusi will play in the all-star game for the third straight season, set for Orlando, his hometown. The MLS all-stars face Atletico Madrid on July 31.
The selection came from a fan vote, and it’s a bit of surprise, Zusi acknowledged. Playing on the back line, he has zero goals and two assists this year. He hasn’t felt his typical self.
The kids knew or cared about none of that. When Williams asked the small group if they were Sporting KC fans, all raised their hands. One patient said she was, but she couldn’t identify any of the players. Then Williams grabbed a picture of Zusi.
“Oh, yeah, I know him,” she said.
They made congratulatory signs, on display as a confused Zusi walked into the room.
“It made me quite emotional,” he said.
They asked for autographs on their jerseys, scarves and posters.
“I was kind of nervous to meet him,” one patient, Gloria, said. “But it was very awesome to meet him.”
And now that you have?