Two-year-old Trip Phinney received a surprised visit from his "friends" on Friday when Nashville Predators stars Roman Josi and Mike Fisher visited him at his home in Murfreesboro.
Trip is in hospice care and battling cancer. On a whim, Nashville area photographer Stephanie Mullowney sent Josi a Facebook message to see if he would be willing to visit Trip.
"I knew it was a super-long shot considering they're in the middle of the Stanley Cup," Mullowney said.
To her astonishment, Josi responded that he would visit and he surprised the Phinney family by bringing along Fisher as well.
The players visited Trip and his family shortly after returning to Nashville from the Predators' Game 5 loss in Pittsburgh. Josi and Fisher took photographs with Trip, and his 1-year-old brother Keldan, and provided the family with plenty of autographed Preds gear.
Trip's mother Theresa Phinney said her son has gotten into the Predators and calls the players his friends when they're on the television.
She said the family has become big fans of the team, attending four games with tickets donated to the Pediatric Cancer Fund by goaltender Pekka Rinne.
"It was completely overwhelming and amazing to have two of our Predators to take time out of their very busy schedules to come see their littlest fan," Theresa Phinney said. "Every day we're just anxious about how Trip's going to be doing and scared for the future.
"When they showed up it was just a light in this whole big, dark time. You could tell he was a little bit different. He was a little bit happier, a little bit more himself. And it was just amazing to see him being a normal toddler when he has all this going on."
In a tangent to the story, Mullowney's path to professional photography has a heartwarming twist. Her daughter Hannah Grace was born with Down Syndrome and shortly after her birth the two were homeless, living in a hotel and with family members.
Her employer, Scott Sievertson, noticed her talent for photography and encouraged Mullowney to buy a professional camera and pursue it.
Her company Paperdolls Photography specializes in portraits of special needs children. She was aware of Josi's generosity through her photographing the Best Buddies Organization, a nonprofit that helps children with Down Syndrome.
She detailed the players' visit in a post on her company's website.
"It was a total blessing to see how those players helped brighten Trip and his family," Mullowney said.