Victims of last week's attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando who have been recuperating at an area hospital got a pleasant surprise this week: visits from some former and current sports stars with ties to the region. Shaquille O'Neal, Johnny Damon and Kaka went to Orlando Regional Medical Center together on Monday, and Tuesday saw Tim Tebow stopping by the facility.
O'Neal began his Hall of Fame NBA career with the Orlando Magic, while Damon was a high school baseball star in that city. Kaka, meanwhile, is the captain of MLS's Orlando City SC, and Tebow has close ties to the greater area, having played high school football near Jacksonville before a legendary Florida Gators career in Gainesville.
Along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, O'Neal, Damon and Kaka handed out "Orlando Strong - Governor's Medal of Unity" to survivors, their families and hospital workers. The hospital is located less than a mile from Pulse, and most of the wounded were cared for there.
In a statement, Scott thanked "these amazing athletes for bringing joy and encouragement to the survivors and their families who are recovering from the terrorist attack that occurred last weekend at Pulse Nightclub. Johnny Damon, Ricardo Kaká and Shaquille O'Neal join countless individuals and organizations from around the world who have come together to support the Orlando community. … We are all inspired by the hope, love and courage displayed by these survivors during their recovery."
Tebow took the opportunity to visit a high school teammate, Rodney Sumter, who was shot in both arms while bartending at Pulse. Sumter, who was also visited by Damon, Kaka and Scott, wrote on Instagram, "Tebow has always been an awesome person."
A representative for Tebow told TMZ Sports, "Timmy has a lot of relationships in Orlando. Family. Friends. He wants to do what he can." Scott said in a statement, "Since graduating from the University of Florida, Tim has continuously worked to improve the lives of others through his foundation whose mission is to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need."
Des writes for the Early Lead and the D.C. Sports Bog, scouring the Web to bring readers items of interest, both serious and amusing. He also covers fantasy football, as well as fitness topics for the MisFits.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Des Bieler