By Jenelyn Russo
Special to AnaheimDucks.com
The Ducks got into the holiday giving spirit earlier this week by making the season a little brighter for some deserving kids.
Ducks players Corey Perry, Clayton Stoner and Francois Beauchemin hosted a shopping spree at Target in the Irvine Spectrum for 10 low-income students who are currently enrolled at The Wooden Floor, an arts-based nonprofit organization located in Santa Ana.
Joined by Beauchemin’s wife, Marie; Ryan Kesler’s wife, Andrea; Mark Fistric’s wife, Geena; and Perry’s fiancée Blakeny, the group took the kids around the store as they picked out items that ranged from clothing and shoes to toys and sports equipment.
To make sure the clothes fit just right, the kids took turns trying on what they had chosen and “modeled” their selections for their hosts. Many of the kids chose gifts not only for themselves, but for their siblings and other family members as well.
The Wooden Floor
Founded in 1983, The Wooden Floor is an after-school program that provides 375 low-income youth the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty through dance education and performance.
In addition, the non-profit organization provides academic programs, family services, mentoring and college scholarships to assist in transforming how the students view themselves and their future.
The commitment and investment that The Wooden Floor makes in these local underserved youth have produced phenomenal results, as 100 percent of the program’s graduates since 2005 have completed high school on time and have immediately enrolled in college, a number that is about three times that of their socioeconomic peers.
“Dance instills a sense of confidence, a sense of accomplishment, joy and presence, a lot of things that are missing in their lives,” says Director of Communications and Marketing at The Wooden Floor, Payal Kumar Avellan. “The Wooden Floor is a place where these kids can truly excel and be who they are. And that then goes on to inspire them the rest of their lives so they can live to their full potential.”
Norma Gonzalez, whose son Andrew Chavez participated in the shopping spree, said her son could hardly contain his excitement.
“My son was so excited when he found out that he got picked, he thought he was dreaming,” said Norma. “He couldn't believe it. It’s an amazing experience.”
Andrew had requested a keyboard for Christmas, something Norma had said she wasn’t sure she could provide for him. But when she saw one in Andrew’s shopping cart, she was overjoyed.
“I saw the smile on his face,” she said. “He's very happy and I'm very thankful to all the people that made this experience happen for the kids. They're going to remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Andrew spent the afternoon grinning from ear to ear, grateful for the chance to meet and spend time with professional athletes.
“This experience today was magical,” said Andrew. “This really happened. I didn't expect it. It was a surprise, just like Christmas.”
This is the seventh consecutive year the Ducks organization has partnered with The Wooden Floor to provide a shopping spree for the after-school program’s students. For these families, who are classified by HUD as extremely low-income, the experience provided holiday gifts and necessities that otherwise would not be possible.
“It's great. Just the smiles on their faces, you can't describe it,” said Perry, who was participating in this event for the first time. “It's Christmas. It’s a time for giving right now, and we're very happy to be a part of it.”
Added Blakeny, “Just to see their reaction and how excited they are, you really can't put words on it.”
After the shopping spree concluded, Beauchemin and Stoner laced up their skates and took the kids out onto the Irvine Spectrum’s ice rink, presented this year by the Anaheim Ducks. Some of the kids were more experienced skaters, while some were out on the ice for the first time, receiving skating instructions from the pros. It was a fitting conclusion to a fun, holiday-themed afternoon.
“Today means a lot. Looking at the kids faces and seeing them excited to get these things. These are things that they needed,” said Beauchemin. “They are all great kids, and we're happy to support them.”
“It was super fun,” said Stoner of his time with the students. “That’s the ultimate thing we want to do here is help them have a better time this Christmas. That's what it's all about.”