Nurses that have worked with his family for more than three years say Olsen is just like any other dad

By Michelle Boudin
Updated February 06, 2016 09:30 AM
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Credit: Courtesy Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen is a Pro Bowl tight end who’s headed to the Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. But when he’s at Levine Children’s Hospital with his 3-year-old son T.J., he’s just like any other dad.

T.J. was born with a rare condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means he had just half a heart.

Because of this, T.J. and the Olsen family have become fixtures at the children’s hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. Greg Olsen is known as the dad who belts out all the words to Frozen’s “Let It Go” to calm little T.J., asks the tough questions about his treatment and often sleeps in a chair for days on end to be with his son, nurses tell PEOPLE.

“We see Greg first and foremost as a dad – and one of the kindest, most caring, generous dads you will ever meet,” says Callie Dobbins, a nurse and facility executive of the Children’s Hospital, who has worked with Olsen since his son was born with the congenital heart defect.

Olsen tells PEOPLE, “While we are in the hospital we make sure it is clear that we are only there as T.J.’s Family. We enjoy getting to know the other families and being a support system for one another.

“We have received just as much support as we have given over the years. The [congenital heart defect] family network is incredibly strong and tight knit. It is something truly special.”

Olsen and wife Kara found out a few months into her pregnancy in 2012 with twins T.J. and Talbot, that T.J. would be born with half a heart.

In the wake of the heartbreaking diagnosis, the couple formed the non-profit organzation The Heartest Yard to help other families with kids dealing with congenital heart defects. Since its inception, the organization has helped 20 families, offering them an in-home nurse to care for these fragile patients.

“It allows parents the opportunity to have some peace of mind while home that they have someone to help them out – allows them to be normal with other children,” Kari Crawford, a pediatric cardiology nurse, tells PEOPLE.

The Heartest Yard falls under the umbrella of Receptions for Research, an organization that Olsen started in 2009 when his mom was fighting breast cancer.