METAIRIE, La. — After working as a State Senator for Jefferson Parish for 12-years, Art Lentini retired, but he never stopped serving others.

Every Thursday looks pretty much the same for Art. He goes about his regular routine getting ready for the day then around 10 in the morning, he heads to Children’s Hospital.

“I started doing it and I can’t stop,” he said. “It’s the highlight of my week!”

And a highlight for the children. The former state senator spends quality time with young patients. He helps take their minds off of whatever illness they’re battling and focus on something else like creating art or beating him in Connect 4.

The playroom has been a part of Art’s routine for more than a decade.

What I like is that the playroom is a distraction for them,” he said. “They get to have some fun they don’t have to think about issues.”

Like 10-year-old Brandon Romero who has Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. It’s a cancer in the blood. Brandon has been sick for about six months. He’s been in the hospital since mid-December.

“I like playing outside with my dad, but usually I can’t do that because I’m in here,” Brandon said. “So the highlight of his day—is this. They like come in our room and pump up us … I need to be motivated not to stay in bed all day.”

Art got emotional when he heard Brandon say that.

“I like seeing them have fun … it affects me,” he said.

This volunteer effort is uplifting, but it also gets tough. These are babies and children battling for their lives. Spending quality time with people who care about them makes a huge difference.

“They really help the children cope with being here,” Lee Myers with Children’s Hospital said. “

They stop thinking about their illness and they just get to be regular kids.”

But the patients aren’t the only ones who get something from this.

“From the patients and their families, you learn to prioritize issues in your life and whether you have significant issues in your life or not and to be grateful for what you have,” Art said.

As young patients like Brandon fight serious diseases —people like Art become a part of their support system. Which is why Art is one of our Neighborhood Heroes.

If you’re interested in volunteering at Children’s Hospital, click here.