The New Jersey Devils 2015 Development Camp marked its fourth day by introducing 42 prospects to one of the key elements of NHL life in New Jersey; community support. In partnership with Barnabas Health, members of the Devils’ development camp roster visited four hospitals in North Jersey to cheer up patients and the staff members that take care of them.
At Jersey City Medical Center, prospects split into multiple groups to visit different parts of the hospital. Reid Boucher, Raman Hramarenka, Ben Thomson, Steven Santini and Colton Phinney brought gifts to the Ambulatory Care Center, where they visited Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Services to talk with children and answer an array of questions.
“It’s great to interact, and meet your fan base,” said Reid Boucher. “It’s great for the community…and be part of everything.” Boucher said that while none of the questions were “too hard,” he was surprised by how many kids were willing to raise their hand. “It was very refreshing.”
The laughter began quickly, when during introductions, Thomson said he was “from Canada, but I don’t live in an igloo.” The kids asked questions ranging from favorite colors and favorite foods to injuries. At the prompting of his teammates, Boucher removed an artificial tooth to the amazement of the children. Soon after, one kid offered Boucher a hug, “That was cute,” Boucher said. “It put a smile on my face.”
Marli Gelfand, Director of the Children & Adolescent Behavioral Health Services program, said it was special for the kids to interact with the athletes. “Just to see people that are famous to them, that could be role models…just to say hi to them and spend a few minutes, that means the world to these kids.”
The program, the biggest of its kind in Hudson County, works with children two-and-a-half years old to 18 years old dealing with behavioral issues, including depression or anxiety, and receiving support and treatment.
Before moving on to other parts of the hospital, including physical and speech therapy centers, the 911-call center where they could see emergency calls come in, and the hospital’s orthopedic institute, the players gave away t-shirts and signed roster cards for each of the kids. For the department, the players signed a poster that Gelfand said she hoped to frame and put on display.
Colton Phinney, who has played a handful of games at Prudential Center as a goalie in high school for Delbarton and in college for Princeton, said it was a special experience to spend time in the community representing the New Jersey Devils.
“Having kids kind of look up to you…it makes me happy doing it, it’s something really special to make a kid’s day.”