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Holiday Hospitality

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA — The Boston Bruins community service award is named in honor of Hockey Hall of Famer John "Chief" Bucyk, and with all of his visits throughout Boston the past few months, this season No. 9 is making a bid to take home the trophy himself.

But Bucyk would be the first to admit he isn't the only member of the organization donating his time and efforts.

On Wednesday B's staff was divided into six groups and visited Boston Children's Hospital, Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Franciscan Hospital for Children, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Shriners Hospitals for Children - Boston, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital where they dropped off toys and gifts for kids who are confined to the hospital during the holidays.

An estimated combined total of $22,500 donated by the Boston Bruins Foundation, Delaware North Companies and Garden Neighborhood Charities was used by the staff to shop for toys on Monday, December 10 and was packed and delivered to the hospitals courtesy of Gentle Giant Moving Company.

"Yeah, it’s come a long way since we started it," said former Bruins captain Ray Bourque as the day started at the TD Garden. "Late nineties I think it was — a bunch of us got together just before Christmas and were thinking about what we could do to make a difference and to try to make this time of year real special for a lot of kids.

"And like I said, the Bruins has brought it totally to a new level."

The level of donations may have changed since Bourque's time with the Bruins, but the Black & Gold's connection to the community and the organization's mission in New England certainly hasn't changed — not one bit.

"Well, that’s the whole thing. What you see in a lot of these kids, they’re not giving up," said Bucyk after his morning spent with pediatric patients at Spaulding Rehab. "They want to live, they want to do what they have to do, and the staff there at Spaulding is unbelievable, the way they work with the kids. I was very impressed by the whole thing.

Christian & Chief

"And you know, it’s nice for us, the Bruins organization, right from management all the way down, to go and spend just an hour or two with them," continued Chief. "We spent two hours with them probably today and just to see the smiles on their faces just makes you feel good."

After meeting Chief and the other Bruins staffers, one young man at Spaulding seemed to speak for many of the children who were on the receiving end of the B's delivery.

"Meeting Chief, talking to him, he’s a nice guy," said a smiling Christian, 18, who's recovering from a badly broken leg. "He’s funny.

"He had me do some decorations. He had me do a wreath and the snow flakes."

But getting to that smile was no joking matter for Bucyk or the other members of the organization who traversed the city on Wednesday passing out gifts for kids who will spend the holidays in the hospital.

"All the kids loved him," said B's Video Analyst Jeremy Rogalski, who spent his morning playing video games with another patient named Tommy. "Chief actually let them try on his Stanley Cup rings too, which brought a couple of big smiles.

"And his decorating skills were a lot better than mine so he’s obviously been through it a couple of times, so it was a joy to watch him hanging out as well."

That joy wasn't confined to the patients, either. Their parents watched from nearby, marveling at how a simple visit could break up the monotony of rehabilitation.

"Oh, he’s going to be excited," said Niki Price of her son Ian, a big Bruins fan who is recovering from brain surgery. "He loves people, loves being out. He’s a very social kid so this is going to be good for him.

"It’s been good all the way around," she added.

Over the years, the B's annual visit and their consistent presence in the community has made for many good days at facilities like Spaulding's.

"The Bruins are a part of our family," said Kimberly Murnane, Child Life Specialist at the hospital. "[The Bruins Foundation donates] the money to us to buy the equipment that we need, and they just bring the fun and enjoyment during the holiday season and throughout the whole year.

"The fun events that happen when they call us and when they just want to come. And it brightens up the day of the patients. Especially during this time of the year.

"They don’t want to in the hospital, and this breaks it up and makes the look forward to something. And reminds them that just it is the holiday season and it’s not just any other day."

And that is exactly the point.

"For us, it’s just trying to make a difference and brighten up their day, especially at this time of the year," said Bourque.

---John Bishop

BOSTON, MA — Bruins President Cam Neely, along with Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney and Assistant Coach Doug Houda were in the elevator traveling in between floors at Tufts Hospital.

In walked a younger Cam, an eighth grader, and a patient at the facility.

A hockey player himself, standing feet away from the former Bruins great after whom he was named after, the two chatted about hockey, took some pictures and exchanged stories.

The smiles on both Cams’ faces were ear-to-ear, but it was just one of the many happy exchanges as Neely, Sweeney, and Houda participated in as B's personnel delivered toys to patients at Tufts Floating Hospital For Children.

"It’s a great process," said Neely of the Bruins holiday giving. "We all certainly enjoy the opportunity to do this.

"To be able to go from Target to the hospitals, and see the looks on the kid’s faces, that’s really what it’s all about."

Cam, Cam, Sweeney & Houda (photo: Lanzel).

The three arrived at the downtown hospital and helped unload toys, which were purchased at the annual Bruins Holiday Toy Shopping event presented by AT&T last week.

Bedecked in red Santa hats, the three loaded toys into separate carts for distribution throughout the hospital. When the carts were loaded up, the trio traveled from wing-to-wing around the building, presenting holiday gift bags, autographs, and above all else, a moment of happiness during the holidays.

"Anytime that we can come back, and give back to the kids, and see a smile on their faces, that’s a pretty special time for us," said Houda. "Just to be involved with it, and coming in the door, and when you do see them smile, or try to get a smile on their faces it’s pretty special."

Like Neely’s elevator encounter, there were plenty of meetings that stood out as the three made more and more acquaintances in the corridors and rooms.

Some patients, according to hospital employees, had barely cracked a smile since being admitted. However, that all changed

"We had one child in particular—his name is Brandon—he’s been here for over a month and he’s had five major surgeries," said Andrea Pappaconstantinou, Director of Child Life Services at the hospital. "To see him smile and laugh today was really, really amazing.

"It is amazing to have the Bruins and people like Cam Neely come and visit the kids here at the hospital. To see the smiles on their faces is simply priceless."

---Evan Sporer

BOSTON, MA — Bruins alumni Ray Bourque, Bob Sweeney and Jay Miller delivered both toys and the holiday spirit to children at MassGeneral Hospital on Wednesday as a part of the Bruins annual toy delivery.  

The tradition, which was started by Bourque during the late 90's has, according to him, been taken to another level.  

"Off the bat it was the players kind of collecting some money and the Bruins management matching it, and now you’ve got toy stores matching it and coming up with gifts," he said. "It really has come a long way and it’s great to see."

The first stop for the group was a room where patients were able to do arts and crafts. In the room, Miller started speaking with a girl who was afflicted with gallbladder pancreatitis, something he was hospitalized for about a year ago.  

"I told her there’s no better place in the world that saved my life," he said. "They told me I’d never come out of it and they did something special with me."

As they walked from room-to-room, the trio saw the kids’ faces light up when they saw the B's alumni and the Bruins logo, and that is something all three men were looking forward to.

"The holidays is a time that everybody’s excited for and the kids here in the hospital that are going through some difficult times," said Sweeney, Executive Director of the Bruins Foundation. "We can do something like a toy delivery around this time of year and put a smile on a kid’s face. That’s what it’s all about."  

The holidays are a time for families to get together, and soon Bourque has passed down the mentality of "giving back" with his son Chris, who is currently playing on the Providence Bruins.

"He’s already visited MassGeneral, I think it was a month ago, with some of his Providence teammates," Ray said. "Chris loves being around kids and knows the importance of giving back. He saw me throughout my whole career doing a lot of different things."

And for a parent, the notion of helping out a son or daughter during the holiday season resonated all-the-more for the B's all-time great.

"You just think about some of these kids who are in the hospitals that have to spend Christmas here," Bourque said, "and just to put a smile on their face at this time of year, and what they’re going through really makes us feel great.

"I think the Bruins have done a really great job at doing what they’re doing over Christmas holidays and all the things they do for kids.

"You know a lot of us are parents and we all know how special Christmas is and to see how kids that react when you bring in the gift just before Christmas like this is a thrill for us."

---Kate Lieb

BOSTON, MA — Spirits were high Wednesday morning as B's alumni Rick Middleton, Gord Kluzak, Tommy Songin and Boston Bruins Assistant Coach Doug Jarvis made a special holiday visit to Franciscan hospital as part of the Bruins annual toy delivery.

"The hospital serves 10,000 kids a year with behavioral, medical, and educational needs," said Diane Newark, the Director of Development at the. "Christmas time can be a difficult time at the hospital for the patients and for the families too.

"A lot of kids will wake up here Christmas morning, so it’s really nice for the patients and the parents to know that the community cares about them and have presents to open on Christmas morning."

The events of the day were made just to do that.

Along with handing out the Bruins goodie bags, some $22,500 worth of toys were given out by Bruins staff an alumni to six local children’s hospitals including Franciscan, a hospital that has a longstanding relationship with the B’s.

"The Bruins are phenomenal," Newark said. "They’ve been coming to visit the hospital more than once a year I think for over 10 years.

Middleton & Songin (photo: So)

"Bruins corporate, as well as the Bruins Foundation support us financially. They’ve helped us renovate playrooms for kids, they helped us build a sensory integration room, and they fund our adaptive skating program.

"They help us out in a lot of different ways."

The children were more than happy to be greeted by members of the Bruins organization and alumni. These children ranged from just a week old to young teenagers and all of them were grateful for the friendly faces coming to see them.

"They’re just happy to see old Bruins," Middleton said enthusiastically. "Really [happy] with any visitors this time of year to come - especially baring gifts, you can’t beat it."

Middleton is no stranger to community events, although he has never delivered toys to the hospital with the Bruins before.  

"This is a first for me; I’m looking forward to it," he said as the crew readied to depart TD Garden. "I’ve gone to hospitals and seen kids at different times of the year, including Christmas, but not this particular event."

Still, despite Middleton making his first appearance for the annual event, none of the Bruins staff and alumni were strangers to giving back to the community.

"Hockey has always been very connected with community events, whatever they may be," Jarvis said. "But I think these are special occasions when we get a chance to visit the children in the different hospitals.

"Hopefully we’ll make their day a little bit brighter."

---Colleen Heafey

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