Falcons visit Fort Worth children's hospital

Air Force football players David Lore, Zach Hoffman and Troy Timmerman talk with and autograph a football for a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Lore is a starter at guard and a backup center; Hoffman is a punter, and Timmerman is a defensive lineman. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

Air Force football players David Lore, Zach Hoffman and Troy Timmerman talk with and autograph a football for a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Lore is a starter at guard and a backup center; Hoffman is a punter, and Timmerman is a defensive lineman. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

The Bird interacts with a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders visited the hospital during their trip to Fort Worth to play in the Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

The Bird interacts with a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders visited the hospital during their trip to Fort Worth to play in the Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

Falcon cheerleaders Barbara Terry, Elizabeth Kovarik and the Bird try to amuse a shy girl at the Cooks Children's Medical Center, while cheerleader Amanda Herman plays hide and go seek behind the Bird, during a visit by the Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders to the hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. The Falcons traveled to Fort Worth for the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

Falcon cheerleaders Barbara Terry, Elizabeth Kovarik and the Bird try to amuse a shy girl at the Cooks Children's Medical Center, while cheerleader Amanda Herman plays hide and go seek behind the Bird, during a visit by the Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders to the hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. The Falcons traveled to Fort Worth for the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

The Bird plays catch with a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders visited the hospital during their trip to Fort Worth to play in the Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

The Bird plays catch with a patient at the Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 27, 2012. Air Force Falcons football players and cheerleaders visited the hospital during their trip to Fort Worth to play in the Armed Forces Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Air Force Academy cheerleaders and football players helped spread some holiday cheer with patients and their families at Cooks Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth Dec. 27.

The Academy cadets, in town for the Armed Forces Bowl, took time out of their bowl game preparations and holiday vacations to visit the children's hospital in central Fort Worth, with members of the Rice University football and cheerleading squads.

With the Academy's costumed mascot, the Bird, leading the charge, cadets spent time talking with children and their families, giving gifts and smiles to the hospital's young patients.

"It's wonderful for community members like this to come in," said Julie Dore, program director for the child life department at Cooks Children's Hospital. "The kids love having anyone from the outside coming in, especially people like these football players, cheerleaders and celebrities in their eyes to come in and just bring a little bit of normalization to the kids. It is something fun to get the kids out of their rooms and make their stay here a little more enjoyable. The majority of the kids love any type of costumed mascot and love to talk and interact with them."

Cadets talked with the children, gave gifts and signed footballs. The Bird played catch with a few of the kids, taking the patients' minds off the grim realities that brought them to the children's' hospital.

For one of the cadets, it put his own medical battle into perspective. Cadet 2nd Class Michael Husar Jr. began this season as the Academy's starter at center before suffering a knee injury, ending his season after one game. While he feels ready and is more than willing to play in this week's bowl game, his doctor won't clear him this early in the rehabilitation process to test his knee.

"Some of these kids may never be able to play football. It shows they're fighting on a different type of field, and in some cases, they're just fighting to survive," said Husar, a native of Mount Carmel, Ind. "This really puts football into perspective, that it's just a game and at the end of the day this is what's really important."