Little patients at St. Jude Children's Hospital get sweet day of surprises

The kids put their worries aside for a fun day with Snug from "Sprout House" as part of TODAY's "Thanks and Giving" series.
by Scott Stump / / Source: TODAY

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When he first came to St. Jude, David remembers being afraid.

"I was scared that I was gonna die,'' the 9-year-old, who had a rare form of leukemia, said on TODAY Monday. "They cured me and now I'm feeling way much better than ever."

For patients like David at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in New York City, who have faced so much at such a young age, a visit from Jenna Bush Hager and a special buddy as part of TODAY's annual "Thanks and Giving" series was a chance to be just a kid for a day.

Jenna and several children from St. Jude had a laughter-filled play date with Snug, the lovable dog from the show "Sprout House" on the children's cable channel Sprout.

A 3-year-old girl named Rika, who has a cancer of the eyes called bilateral retinoblastoma, got a chance to wiggle and dance with Snug. Her parents turned to St. Jude to save her life and her eyesight after her local doctors told them removing both of her eyes would stop the cancer.

The kids also got to pick out their favorite costumes from Snug's discovery drawer, transforming into a princess, an astronaut and a joker on a day when it was all about being anything other than a patient.

There were smiles all around and an appreciation of what means the most, just a few days before Thanksgiving.

"I'm thankful for being here this day,'' a boy named Randell said.

"I'm thankful for my family,'' said a boy named Brantley.

And for David, the play date with Snug and Jenna was a chance to show how far he has come from those fearful first days at St. Jude.

"Ten thousand thumbs up!" he said.

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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