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Joshua Uche brings art supply drive full circle at Franciscan Children's Hospital

This offseason, New England Patriots linebacker Joshua Uche held an art supply drive in partnership with the KyleCares Mental Health Conference. Last week, he got to visit Franciscan Children's Hospital to deliver the gifts.

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By signing his new deal with the Patriots, linebacker Joshua Uche wasn't only dedicating himself to another year with the team under new head coach Jerod Mayo.

The 25-year-old was also doubling down on his commitment to the New England community, where he's been plenty busy in the last few weeks.

Earlier this offseason, Uche conducted an art supply drive at the KyleCares Mental Health Conference – a local mental health summit targeted to help children and teenagers that he's been involved with for two seasons. Last Thursday, he was able to bring those donations to Franciscan Children's Hospital and meet the kids receiving care.

"This puts everything in perspective," Uche said after the visit.

"Playing for the New England Patriots and having the No. 55 jersey puts things into perspective that I'm just a human being who plays a sport that many people watch, but at the end of the day, we're just people. To come down from our platform and be around kids who are battling tougher situations than we are as football players and just sit down with them was fun for me."

Located in Brighton, Mass., Franciscan Children's Hospital provides a compassionate and positive environment where children with mental health challenges, complex medical conditions, or special education needs can receive care from experts committed to helping them reach their full potential.

"Franciscan Children's has a really unique mission and we're one of the very few hospitals in the nation that provides the services that we do," says Elizabeth Smith, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services.

"We pride ourselves on caring for kids with the most complex needs – whether it's medical, mental health, or educational."

Uche toured the medical units, met kids being treated at the hospital, and was able to spend significant time with kids receiving care at the hospital's Inpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health unit.

Together, they decorated t-shirts and he got to see how incredibly talented all the kids were, sharing fabric markers, compliments, and laughs.

"Mental health is very important," Uche said. "As athletes, we've always had an emphasis on working out our arms, legs, things like that – but the most important muscle is the mind. Through different things, such as making art like we did today, communication and talking, and enjoying the little things – those are small exercises that allow you to strengthen your mental health."

Throughout his time with the Patriots, mental health is a topic Uche has worked tirelessly to defeat social stigmas for.

"To come into the units and promote physical health, but also understand the importance of mental health, is incredible," Smith said of Uche.

"It allows the kids a break from the day-to-day, and for a moment, it allows them to smile and forget everything else that's going on around them. That's priceless. We're so appreciative that he is here and can provide the kids with those special moments."

Uche wouldn't take all the credit, though.

With his younger sister Linda finishing up school at Boston University in order to become a nurse practitioner, he has a great deal of respect for the staff committed to helping these kids heal.

"Seeing the smiles kids have on their faces when they see the support staff is truly impactful," Uche said.

"They're true Patriots, true heroes, and true waymakers. It's beautiful. My sister being in the healthcare industry, being a nurse herself, I understand how much time, effort, empathy, and emotion is going into taking care of these patients. It's truly an honor to be around them."

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