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Gwinnett players boost morale at rehab center

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Gwinnett Braves’ Wes Timmons, left, hands an autographed baseball to Billy Barker during his visit to Gwinnett Medical Center’s Glancy Rehabilitation Center in Duluth on Friday. Timmons and Josh Anderson met patients and signed autographs during their visit to the rehab center. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Gwinnett Braves’ Wes Timmons, left, hands an autographed baseball to Billy Barker during his visit to Gwinnett Medical Center’s Glancy Rehabilitation Center in Duluth on Friday. Timmons and Josh Anderson met patients and signed autographs during their visit to the rehab center. 

DULUTH — Cyndi Deen of Suwanee has been a patient in the Glancy Rehabilitation Center for two weeks. But on Friday morning, she and her visiting mother Marilyn Epperson of Duluth received a treat: Gwinnett Braves’s players Josh Anderson and Wes Timmons came for a visit.

Deen and Epperson are fans and had the players sign a foam Braves tomahawk. Deen said she wished she could join the players at Coolray Field.

“I’d rather be having a hot dog there than mashed potatoes here,” Deen said.

The Glancy Rehabilitation Center currently has 22 patients, mostly stroke survivors. It is part of the Gwinnett Medical Center, a founding partner and health care provider of the Gwinnett Braves. Anderson and Timmons made the rounds on Friday, visiting with the patients.

“It’s always good to talk to different people and to be a bright spot in peoples’ days,” said Anderson.

The Gwinnett Medical Center chose Glancy rather than a large hospital for the visit because the patients are more active and able to interact with players, said Aaron McKevitt, assistant coordinator for marketing and communications for Gwinnett Medical Center.

“We try and get them back into the groove. We even have a pretend grocery store upstairs,” he said.

Anderson and Timmons talked to, took pictures with and gave autographs to more than a dozen patients undergoing physical therapy in the center’s gym. The players were eagerly received, especially by the many G-Braves fans. Several patients promised to watch a game, provided their release and better weather.

“We’ll try and cool it down for you,” Timmons joked.

Anderson, an infielder, and Timmons, an outfielder, sanitized their hands before entering the white medical room. Lying in the lone bed was 88-year-old John Edelburg, who slowly lifted himself to greet his guests. Mustering up a smile, he croaked, “I hope the Braves win tonight,” as the players left his room.

Seven wheelchair-bound patients played volleyball in the center of the gym. With therapists’ aid, they hit a large, yellow smiley-face ball over a low net back and forth with one reminder: Don’t jump out of your chair.

“It’s wonderful they do community service and they come and out see us, especially for us sports fans,” said one of the volleyball players and Braves fan Jerry Hyde, who is recovering from a hip injury.

Staff members said such visits are good for the patients.

“It’s nice to help their morale,” said occupational therapist Bina Sanghvi of Johns Creek. “It’s all about them feeling positive to improve their recovery.”

Gwinnett Braves players’ wives often join their husbands for community service. Timmons’ wife Randi and two young daughters Kallyn and Irelyn came with him.

“We do these things because it’s a little piece of how we give back and how we build a relationship with the community,” said Randi as her older daughter eagerly passed around signed cards.

Edith Queen, a 97-year-old patient, said the visit made her day, especially for someone who followed the Braves her whole life and never met a player.

“When we visit kids, they usually don’t understand what it means to be a professional athlete,” said Timmons. “It’s cool when an older person is excited to see a Gwinnett Brave.”

The events aren’t easy to organize. Braves players’ schedules are jam-packed with games, including home games every day this week, according to Community and Public Affairs Manager Courtney Lawson. However, they still manage to volunteer, especially for children in hospitals and Eagle Ranch.

“The players just want to cheer people up whether they are 5 or 90,” Lawson said.