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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Double the reptiles, twice the fun: Lyle the Crocodile visits UF Health Children’s Hospital

President Kent Fuchs read a “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” book in the garden

<p>A child poses with Lyle the Crocodile and Albert the Gator at a UF Health Shands Hospital event where President Kent Fuchs and his wife read &quot;Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile&quot; to a group of children Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.</p>

A child poses with Lyle the Crocodile and Albert the Gator at a UF Health Shands Hospital event where President Kent Fuchs and his wife read "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" to a group of children Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

Lyle, meet Albert. Albert, meet Lyle.

Lyle the Crocodile from the popular children’s book series “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” greeted seven child patients at the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital alongside Albert the Gator, UF President Kent Fuchs and his wife Linda Fuchs Tuesday morning. The Fuchses read aloud to the group.

The event was organized by UF Health Shands Hospital in collaboration with entertainment studio Sony Pictures to celebrate the release of the new movie “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” — for which the trailer featured Gator merch — Friday. The children were all invited to an advanced screening at Regal Royal Park after the greeting.

The movie follows Josh Primm, a young boy, and his family’s move to New York City. As depicted in the trailer, Josh has a difficult transition to city life and finds comfort in Lyle, the singing crocodile. 

Throughout the trailer, Lyle wears a UF hoodie, T-shirt and scarf — leading some to speculate he might be a secret Gators fan. 

Music from “Encanto” played lightly as Lyle and Albert made their way through the garden area of the hospital. The children, their parents and Shands Child Life specialists sat while Fuchs and his wife took turns reading “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile: Meet Lyle'' aloud.

“I’m so glad to be here with my three friends,” Kent Fuchs said to the crowd of patients and parents, referring to his wife and the two reptiles.

After he and his wife finished the story, the children played outside, drew pictures with chalk and posed for individual photos with Lyle. 

Ariana Frazier, 4, blew bubbles at Lyle to the tune of “Try Everything” from “Zootopia.” Her mother, Nateisha Williams, said she and her daughter were flown out to Shands from Clearwater more than 150 miles away to deal with the 4 year old’s cardiac issues.

This was Ariana’s first time out in a while, because she’s on a transplant list, Williams said. But the Child Life specialists regularly bring activities to the kids.

“They try to keep it normal,” Williams said. “They organize things for the kids to do while they’re in the hospital so they’re not getting bored or feeling down.”

The hospital was especially interested in bringing Lyle to Gainesville after seeing him donning UF merch, said Traci d’Auguste, Shands’ chief operating officer. 

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Child Life specialists played a crucial role in keeping the young patients calm and entertained — a responsibility indicative of their overall role.

“Their job is to help children and families – whether it’s coming in for testing or surgery or [to] help the children understand what’s happening,” d’Auguste said.

The number of children each Child Life specialist cares for depends on the unit. Alix Stovall, a Child Life specialist at Shands, said she watches over about 20 kids on her floor. The children’s hospital often hosts events for its patients, she said.

“We’ll have greetings, and the athletes will come,” Stovall said. “A lot of times it’s in our playrooms.”

While taking photos with the kids, Albert taught Lyle how to do the Gator chomp. Unfortunately, it wasn’t up to Fuchs’ standards, he said.

“My first Gator chomp eight years ago was left over right,” he said. “And Lyle did the same. It’s a mistake you only make once in your life.”

The children received Lyle movie posters and fans to cool off from the direct sunlight. Even Lyle himself was overheated and had to sit under an umbrella.

But Lyle’s day was far from over. Alongside Fuchs and Albert, Lyle’s next stops were scattered throughout UF campus, including a trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He was later presented with Gator gear.

“It sounds like a great way to spend my day with Lyle and Albert,” Fuchs said.

Contact Lauren at Follow her on Twitter @LaurenBrensel.

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Lauren Brensel

Lauren Brensel is a journalism sophomore and a metro reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she's found going on mental health walks, being silly with friends, hiding from the public and reminding those around her that they did this song on Glee.

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