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Wilson Expands Forty Three's Friends

Caps forward Tom Wilson launched the program last season but wanted to add another organization to it this year

by Taryn Bray @tarynbray /

Tom Wilson is known as the hard hitting, rough and tough winger for the Washington Capitals, but what isn't always seen is the side of him that lights up when he's around things he's passionate about.

Last season, Wilson was nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community."

Him being nominated for the award last season wouldn't come as a shock to anyone that knows him.

He's been involved with several community programs in his career but most notably, the launch of his player program Forty Three's Friends.

He started the program last season, donating four tickets per game across 20 games to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic children and following each game he would spend time with the recipients in the Caps locker room.

This year however, he decided to expand the program to also include recipients from United Heroes League (UHL).

But why did Wilson decide to expand Forty Three's Friends this year and add UHL?

"Being in D.C. you meet a bunch of military people and it's something that's close to this city," he said. "I wanted to keep Make-A-Wish because it's important to me, but I wanted to add a new spin into it as well."

He felt adding this new group while still keeping Make-A-Wish was a natural progression in his player program.

United Heroes League actively works to ensure that children of military service members have opportunities to participate in sports, develop critical life skills through sports, and to keep military kids active and healthy through engagement in sports and its experiences.

Wilson meets with the recipients after the game and takes them into the locker room where he gives a little bit of a tour, takes photos and chats with the family.

"It's just supposed to be a fun night," he said. "Hopefully they can forget the tough times that are going on for just one night and enjoy the game."

Wednesday night, Wilson met the Solove family through the UHL for one of his Forty Three's Friends meetups. Joshua Solove, the father, is on reservist duty and is a captain in the Army.

"We are big hockey fans, especially my two sons," Solove said. "We have been in VA since 2011 and have followed the Caps ever since. It's awesome that we were able to do this through the Caps and UHL."

His two sons Grant and Logan were reveling in the experience. Grant plays hockey himself, Logan does not but he's admittedly the family's biggest Caps fan.

Wilson even gave him one of his used sticks and signed it for him and you could see the pure joy on Grant's face when he got it.

"He's going to be talking about this forever," his dad said in the moment.

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