SACRAMENTO -- Damian Garcia wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up, so getting to pet and meet some of SeaWorld's cuddly and not so cuddly animals was a special treat.
"I'm grateful that they did this. For the people with hand differences and any difference pretty much," said Damian Garcia, a patient at Shriners Hospital
Damian was born with a hand impairment. He's only 11 years old and already has had three different surgeries to repair it, the most recent just a few days ago.
His mom is grateful for the distraction SeaWorld's critters are providing her son.
"He is just over the moon. Yeah, he wants to be a veterinarian, so to have animals come to him -- he's just in his element, probably doesn't even realize how much pain he is in," said Leslie Mancera, Damian's mom.
"They touch the mind when we get to share our knowledge about them, they touch the heart when you get to get up close and personal with them, and I know that that actually helps heal," said Lindy Donahue, a SeaWorld animal ambassador.
SeaWorld has brought some of their rescued animal ambassadors to Shriners Hospital in Sacramento for the past several years.
"Why do you like the penguin the best? Because at school I write about the penguins," said Rudy Villa, a patient.
And for Donahue, seeing the kids' reactions never gets old.
"It wraps around your heart and squeezes really tight, and we love connecting people with animals, especially when we know the animals can bring such joy like we are seeing right now," Donahue said.
"Thank you for doing this because some people are different, but it doesn't make us different," Garcia said.