Lady Ducks Make the Holidays Brighter for Wooden Floor Youth
Students from the nonprofit in Santa Ana are beneficiaries of Target shopping spreeby Jenelyn Russo / AnaheimDucks.com
The Lady Ducks lifted the holiday spirits of some local kids this week as the wives and significant others of the players and coaches hosted a shopping spree for 15 students from the Santa Ana-based nonprofit organization, The Wooden Floor.
"This is like winning the lottery," said 16-year-old Rolando Quintanilla.
The Segerstrom High School junior, who comes from a family of 10, said Christmas in his house is typically less about presents and more about spending time with those he loves. So to be given clothes and other necessities at this time of year was an unexpected gift.
"Today was unreal," Quintanilla said. "I never get to splurge like this, so to have this opportunity is really exciting."
Ingrid Eakins, wife of Ducks head coach Dallas, Deanna Shattenkirk, wife of Ducks defenseman Kevin, Cassidy Chalifoux, girlfriend of Ducks forward Sam Steel, and Caroline Marchant, wife of Ducks alumnus and current Director of Player Development Todd Marchant, accompanied the students at the Irvine Spectrum Target as they selected items such as clothes, books and hygiene products. Several of the children even picked out gifts for their friends and siblings.
"The whole experience is really heartfelt," Ingrid Eakins said. "It takes your breath away when they're here for themselves and they're thinking about a brother or sister and are spending their money on somebody else. It's so special."
Added Deanna Shattenkirk, "The Ducks have such a huge platform, and it's so easy for us to give our time to do this. It means a lot to everybody, and it really brings the community together."
Caroline Marchant brought her daughters Lilli and Ashley along for the shopping trip and emphasized the long-term impact of serving the community.
"We're very honored to be a part of this," she said. "These kids that we're giving back to are probably going to grow up and give back as well when they're adults."
This is the 14th consecutive year the Ducks have supported The Wooden Floor through this annual holiday giving event. Despite restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic last December, Ducks players did some online shopping for several students and their families and hosted a virtual meet-up to celebrate the season.
"Last year when we couldn't be in person, that didn't stop or deter them, and they immediately thought innovatively about what they could do," said CEO of The Wooden Floor Dawn S. Reese. "The Ducks' commitment to our organization and our mission means so much to us."
Since 1983, The Wooden Floor has used the power of dance to foster creative development and access to higher education for low-income and underserved youth in Orange County. Through their after-school programming and support services such as tutoring, mentorship, college and career readiness and family workshops, the organization provides a path for students to break the cycle of poverty and pursue higher education. Since 2005, 100 percent of The Wooden Floor graduates have completed high school on time and have immediately enrolled in college.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the nonprofit was forced to move its entire program online, a format it maintained through the 2020-2021 academic year. With a focus on pivoting to a platform that supported their students and families in the areas of techno-literacy, health and wellness, creativity and connection, The Wooden Floor faculty and staff remained a steady anchor for the community during a volatile and uncertain time.
This fall, dance classes have returned in person at their Main Street and Depot locations in Santa Ana, and the program welcomed 90 new students, bringing total enrollment to approximately 475. Several support services have remained in a virtual format to allow for schedule flexibility, but the mission remains the same.
"We're meeting the students and parents needs at the same time," Reese said. "Listening and learning have been the focus and really being intentional with the community we serve."
Ducks partner TCL also participated in making the holidays brighter for The Wooden Floor youth and their families by providing each child 43" Roku TV.
With many of The Wooden Floor families having experienced severe loss over the last 21 months, events like this annual shopping spree provide some normalcy and much-needed support for parents who would otherwise be struggling to provide a Christmas at home.
"This event has become tradition for us, and it just feels so good to have a tradition back," Reese said. "To see everyone come out again and be reunited, and to keep a long-held tradition in place when things are still uncertain, there's a stability to that."
Seventeen-year old Samueli Academy senior Leilani Lace and her younger sister Monet put plenty of winter clothes and hygiene necessities in their Target carts at a time when they were genuinely needed.
"I dearly appreciate it," Lace said. "Because of Covid, my family has hit a lot of financial barriers. So to have the opportunity to do this and provide stuff for ourselves is really, really nice."
Both Lace and Quintanilla not only love to dance but have college aspirations on the horizon that would not be possible without the programming provided by The Wooden Floor and the support of community partners like the Ducks whose actions send a message to the students of optimism and hope.
"Being a part of The Wooden Floor has changed me," Quintanilla said. "And I just want to say thank you to the Ducks because a lot of people don't have the opportunity to do anything like this. I'm so grateful we get to experience this."