Oilers make families smile at Ronald McDonald House

The Edmonton Oilers visited Ronald McDonald House on Thursday to meet children and their families. A father whose three-month-old son is recovering from meningitis may have needed it the most.

'This is probably bigger for me than it is for my children,’ says father of sick infant

Adam Larsson (left to right), Zach Kassian, Leon Draisaitl, sign autographed pictures while they talk with the Blanchfield family. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

When members of the Edmonton Oilers visited Ronald McDonald House on Thursday, the person who most benefited may have been the father whose three-month old son is recovering from meningitis.

"You need to smile," David Blanchfield said. "You need to forget what's going on. Even if just for a minute."

While his son Christopher is at the Stollery Children's Hospital, Blanchfield is taking a break at Ronald McDonald House with his wife, two daughters and Christopher's twin brother.

The family spent time talking with forward Leon Draisaitl while the youngest daughter tried her best to avoid the Oilers ferociously lovable mascot, Hunter.

Whether Blanchfield was talking with the players or watching his family interact with them, the grin on his face didn't disappear.

David Blanchfield watches his seven and four-year-old daughters eat cookies with Edmonton Oilers players. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Draisaitl was accompanied by goalie Cam Talbot, forward Zach Kassian and defencemen Adam Larsson and Kris Russell.

"This is probably bigger for me than it is for my children," Blanchfield said. "I've been cheering for them since I was five years old."

He's trying not to think about what comes next for Christopher. Meningitis affects his development. There's potential he may never be able to walk or talk, but finding out the full effects of the illness will take time.

Oilers players also visited the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and the Stollery Children's Hospital on Thursday.

Ronald McDonald House, at 107th Street and 77th Avenue, provides temporary and affordable accommodation for families whose children are being treated in Edmonton medical facilities.

Draisaitl said he doesn't know all he stories of why the kids and their parents are at the Ronald McDonald House. But making people smile and just listening is making an impact on them, he added.

"People think that hockey players are tough, but I think the real people who are tough are those kids. As long as we can help them, allow them to forget a bit and have fun, that's the most important part."

Leon Draisaitl signs autographs while Andrea Blanchfield pours frosting on a cookie at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Blanchfield will have to wait for his Christopher to gain consciousness before the family can leave the Ronald McDonald House and return to their home in Drayton Valley.

"Hopefully he'll get stronger every day and we'll just move forward," he said.

cewancbc    Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca