Boston, MA -
Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman traded in the blueline for bathrobes as he kicked off the third annual PJ Drive Monday. He signed autographs and helped collect thousands of dollars worth of kids' pajamas at BJ's Wholesale Club in Stoneham, Mass.
"[The Bruins] try to get out as much as we possibly can to help in the community," he said. "Anytime we can do things more for kids, when it's geared toward kids, it makes you feel a whole lot better."
The B's are teaming up with BJ's Wholesale Club and Cradles-to-Crayons, a Quincy-based nonprofit, to help provide new pajamas to the needy kids of Massachusetts.
Wideman is helping to continue the tradition started by former Bruin forward, the aptly named, P.J. Axelsson. P.J. and his wife Siw started the drive in the 2007-'08 season as a way to give back to the community.
Last year the PJ Drive yielded over 12,000 pairs of pajamas in just the month of February. This year Cradles-to-Crayons hopes to expand the drive even more.
According to Cradles-to-Crayons Director for Community Outreach Kathy Fagan, over 305,000 children are in need in Massachusetts alone. A pair of pajamas is a small necessity that makes a big difference in the life of an underprivileged child.
In addition to the many fan donations he collected, Wideman personally contributed $1,000 worth of pajamas. He even enlisted the help of Michael, 13, and Steven Wesley, 10, of Stoneham, Mass. to pick out what they thought kids would like.
Wideman, who also participated in a Thanksgiving pie delivery charity earlier this season, attributed his dedication to charity to the Bruins who came before him.
"I think the players do a lot within the community, but I think that all starts with the guys that have been here for a long time, like Don Sweeney and Ray Bourque," he said. "Guys like that set the example for us."
In addition to Wideman's appearance Monday, the drive includes school participation, in-store collections in all 20 Massachusetts BJ's locations, and an in-game drive at the Bruins home game on Jan. 18 against the Ottawa Senators. At that game, for each pair of pajamas donated, fans will receive a raffle ticket with a chance to win autographed Bruins memorabilia.
Despite his continued efforts to go above and beyond in community outreach, Wideman humbly insisted that philanthropy comes with the territory as a professional hockey player.
"We know that that's expected," he said. "Playing for the Bruins, you're expected to be involved in the community." Bruins fans can help with the drive. Click here to learn how.