It wasn’t a typical Saturday afternoon skate between home games for the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks practiced in front of more than 200 members of military families from the Southern California
chapter of Operation Homefront, then spent the afternoon with them for a barbeque and games in the Honda Center parking lot. Members of the Ducks’ own families were also part of the day’s activities.
“This is so exciting to meet these military families, and it’s such an honor,” said Ducks winger Teemu Selanne
. “Obviously it’s fun to have people watching our practices, and I hope it’s a fun experience for all of them too. I don’t think they see a hockey practice very often and to have all these activities here is so great.”
Operation Homefront is one of the country’s largest non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting military families, with more than 30 locations across the U.S.
The agency focuses on a range of issues from home and auto repairs to urgent financial assistance and emotional support.
“I want to thank the Anaheim Ducks family for their spectacular efforts in making this such a special day for our troops,” said Rob Wolford, National Chairman of the Board of Operation Homefront. “It’s very humbling to be embraced by the entire organization, and I know our troops will leave today as lifelong Ducks fans.”
Even though they had just endured an hour-long practice, several Ducks players mixed it up with the kids on the street hockey court, in the hardest shot and accuracy challenges and in table hockey. George Parros
and Ryan Getzlaf
were even jumping around with kids in the giant bounce house.
“It’s an experience for us to interact with people who have done so much for our country,” Getzlaf said. “It’s a way to give back a little bit and just enjoy the day. It’s exciting to hear them talk and hear some of their stories as well.”
Parros, who has a cousin serving in the military, said he enjoyed the opportunity to learn about some of the soldiers’ lives. “They’re doing a great service for us,” Parros said. “I’ve got some family in the military, so it’s great to be able to talk to some of these soldiers and their families. There have been some trying times the last few years and it’s interesting to get more connected with these people.”
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Operation Homefront was founded in 2002 in San Diego and also operates CinC-House.com, the nation’s largest online community of military spouses and women in uniform.
Operation Homefront utilizes a network of volunteers working within the local chapters to provide critical support to our military families. Since its inception, Operation Homefront has come to the rescue of more than 45,000 clients nation-wide. Operation Homefront serves as a second family when service members are deployed and a family crisis occurs. They are the shoulder to lean on so that the service member can focus on the job at hand knowing that their family is well-cared for.
Operation Homefront works with military leadership to assist families who may not receive needed help otherwise. Over half of the clients are referred by local unit commanders, chaplains, military relief societies and military related non-profit support groups.
Fans interested in supporting military families through Operation Homefront can visit www.operationhomefront.net/socal for more information.
One of those soldiers was Green Beret (Army Special Forces) Aaron Anderson, who had an ear-to-ear smile as he looked over the scene in the parking lot. “This is wonderful,” he said. “Just to be here with the players and the other families and for them to invite us out to have a good time like this and see the kids having so much fun, it’s a great opportunity.”
The weekend-long event was conceived during a breakfast meeting three months ago that involved Wolford, Ducks Executive Vice President/COO Tim Ryan and Executive Vice President and GM Brian Burke. “And the three of us crafted this vision in about 45 minutes,” Wolford says. “It was so refreshing. We said, “This is our vision and this is what the Ducks can do to help these families.’ And here we are today.”
Wolford noted how as professional hockey players, “the Ducks can relate to how traumatic it is for a family where Mom or Dad is disappearing for 8 or 12 months at a time under very stressful circumstances.” But, he said, seeing the way the players interacted with the families so sincerely was gratifying.
“I’m walking on air right now,” Wolford said. “I’m getting as much out of it as these kids. I’m looking around at these players having fun and we’re having fun. This is incredible.”
The Ducks will welcome back the group for tomorrow’s contest vs. Florida
at 5:05 p.m. at Honda Center. The military families will be recognized both in-arena and on the television broadcast that evening.
“This is making a profound impact on lives of these children,” Wolford said. “This is a day they’ll talk about for the indefinite future.”