Sunday afternoons at Dodger Stadium are always special.
The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn fills the senses. The sun shines down on Chavez Ravine with a radiant burst of energy and excitement.
After the game, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a tradition: every child in the ballpark is invited down to the field to run the bases, just like their favorite big leaguers.
Most parents and children look forward to Sunday afternoon games just for that reason. Many probably take it for granted. But what about those children that are physically unable to run the bases?
Children that are not ambulatory, hospitalized or recovering from illness are not physically able to run the bases after the game like their peers do. Most people probably never think about that. But UCLA Health, the Dodgers and OhmniLabs did. That's why they created a way for those kids that are physically unable to run the bases at Dodger Stadium to still share in the same experience that other children do.
UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital selected 10 pediatric patients to get the opportunity to control the robot on the field at Dodger Stadium from their hospital beds. These special children were not only able to "run" the robot around the bases, but got to virtually meet Dodgers' players Edwin Rios, Gavin Lux and Mitch White as well.
"Experiences like this are incredibly powerful for patients who cannot leave their hospital rooms or homes because of their health conditions,” said Kelli Carroll, director of Child Life Program at UCLA Health. "We are very grateful to have partners that understand the need for fun and creative ways to reduce children’s anxiety and support healing during illness.”
Dressed in a Dodgers' jersey, the Ohmni Robot was on the field at Dodger Stadium alongside a player that could see the pediatric patient on the other end of the screen, aka the Robot's head and face.
"It reminds me of Wall-E," said Lux, referencing lovable robot from the Pixar movie of the same name.
On the other end was the child, controlling the robot with a tablet from their hospital bed and the help of an OhmniLabs employee. The children to met and greeted their Dodgers' player, then received a tour of the field before getting the first-person perspective on what it's like to run the bases at Dodger Stadium.
“The Dodgers were thrilled to partner with UCLA Health on this new and creative way for young people to run the bases with our players,” said Naomi Rodriguez, Dodger vice president of external affairs & community relations.
The partnership was key to making this experience possible for these patients.
“The Dodgers and UCLA Health have taken telepresence to a whole new level. To see such joy on the children’s faces as they run the bases at Dodger Stadium is extremely heartwarming, and we are honored to play a part in this special occasion,” said Thuc Vu, co-founder and CEO of Ohmni Labs.
"Hopefully you guys get better soon, so that you guys can get out here and we'll watch some Dodgers baseball together," said Rios to the children he met with on the other end of the screen.
The final Sunday afternoon game and last opportunity for kids to run the bases at Dodger Stadium is on Oct. 3 at 12:10 p.m. PST against the Milwaukee Brewers.