Sporting Kansas City defender Graham Zusi has provided a special, behind-the-scenes look at MLS All-Star Week to one of his biggest fans back home in Kansas City.
One day before taking the field against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Zusi hosted REX the Robot at MLS All-Star training on Tuesday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
REX is a remote experience robot consisting of an iPad on a pole with a pair of self-balancing wheels that lets patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City experience Major League Soccer in a way that even kids physically attending the games cannot.
This time around, REX was steered by 14-year-old Lymon, a patient at Children’s Mercy who was able to communicate with Zusi and the entire team of MLS All-Stars.
Zusi spends significant time off the field interacting with youth at Children’s Mercy, making numerous hospital visits throughout the year in addition to hosting REX at Sporting Kansas City home matches at Children’s Mercy Park.
Venturing back to his home state of Florida for All-Star Game festivities, Zusi made sure to bring REX along for the trip. As a result, Lymon had the opportunity to meet Major League Soccer’s best players.
When patients such as Lymon are in control of REX, they’re able to see live video and hear what’s going on around the stadium. From the iPad, they can drive the robot forward or backward, turn left and right, even get taller or shorter to have a better look around.
REX debuted as the first technology of its kind to be used at a major league event when Sporting hosted Seattle Sounders FC on May 17, 2017. Since then, Children’s Mercy patients have enjoyed an all-access pass to the revelry, feeling like a part of the stadium crowd, all from a hospital bed more than 15 miles away.
Zusi was named the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year at Sporting’s Pitch Black awards last October. The 32-year-old has participated in numerous philanthropic events and embraced a leading role for The Victory Project, Sporting’s charitable arm that helps children and families affected by cancer and other illnesses.
In addition to making monthly visits to Children’s Mercy, Zusi has led the following Victory Project initiatives throughout his time in Kansas City: Yoga on the Pitch at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC Day at the Kansas City Zoo, the Sporting Invitational golf tournament at Loch Lloyd Country Club, and Celebrity Bartending at No Other Pub. He has also appeared in the Braden’s Hope Calendar for each of the last six years.