NFL Star Tony Gonzalez Delights Patients at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach

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Miller Children’s Hospital

Atlanta Falcons Tight End Tony Gonzalez presents a Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach patient
with a new Shadow Buddy.

Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl Tight End Tony Gonzalez is known for making great plays on the football field, but his real crowd pleaser comes off the field as he makes time every year to visit children in the hospital. Fresh off announcing that he will be coming back to play one more season in the NFL, Gonzalez paid a special visit to Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach on Thursday, Mar. 14 where he delivered 100 Shadow BuddiesTM therapy dolls to patients at Miller Children’s.

Along with his wife, Toby, and mother, Judy, Gonzalez personally visited patients throughout Miller Children’s. Gonzalez made a point to interact, and joke, with every patient that he came in contact with. From asking what their favorite football team is, to talking with the patient about their own hobbies, Gonzalez seemed to brighten every child’s day and that is what motivates him to keep coming back year after year.

“I have been teaming up with Shadow BuddiesTM for years now and every time I make this visit to Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach it is always an amazing experience,” says Gonzalez. “To be able to bring joy to these kids whether they know me as an NFL player, or just some big, funny guy, is something I take a lot of pride in and I am happy that I can make a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Miller Children’s Hospital

Gonzalez in front of Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach with one of his Shadow Buddies that he handed out to patients throughout the day.

Since 1998, the Tony Gonzalez Foundation has focused on assisting children with emotional and educational support by helping challenged children through the Shadow Buddies Foundation. Designed to be “just like me,” there are 20 different varieties of buddies, including day surgery buddy and diabetic buddy. The Shadow Buddies are designed to be both “the friend like me” and a teaching tool to provide educational and emotional support for children in the hospital.

Gonzalez, and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, are the only two NFL players to have their very own Shadow Buddies. The buddies are boys with medium skin tones, dressed in an Atlanta Falcons print hospital gown with Gonzalez’s name and number 88 screened on the back. A mini autographed football comes packaged with the Tony buddies. More than 52,500 Shadow Buddies – with Tony personally delivering more than 21,000 – have been distributed to children and seniors throughout the United States. The total number of Shadow Buddies delivered to date is 900,000.

“We are thrilled that Tony Gonzalez continues to partner with Miller Children’s by visiting pediatric patients and their families,” says Rita Goshert, Manager, Child Life Department, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. “Special visits like this make such a positive difference in the lives of our patients and families.”


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