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Community: Hospital Visits and Target Shopping

by Katharine Kelley / Carolina Hurricanes
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (literally, this song is playing on my work radio… a little ironic if you ask me). Regardless, I know this sounds cliché with the holiday season, but honestly, it truly is the best time of the year for me.

Katharine Kelley
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Yesterday (Tuesday) embodies my most favorite day of the year when it comes to my job. It’s not very often that we get the opportunity to mobilize every player, but yesterday the entire team was busy making community appearances for the good of our community. Hospital Visits, Target shopping, and promoting the Pound for Pound Challenge were the highlights of Tuesday’s community appearances.

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Cam Ward and Tim Gleason visited REX Hospital to sign autographs, take pictures and give Hurricanes gifts to patients. In addition to visiting the Carolina Hurricanes playroom at REX, the guys had enough time to visit with adult patients on top of visiting hospitalized children. It turned out that a Hurricanes season ticket holder who went to Russia for the pre-season game was having surgery, so she got some comfort words from the guys themselves.

The Finnish trio, Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Tuomo Ruutu, made their way to WakeMed Hospital to sign autographs, take pictures, and give each patient Hurricanes items. The guys even played with children in the waiting room who were playing on the EyeStep Program, which was made possible thanks to a grant from the Kids ‘N Community Foundation. The EyeStep is an interactive floor that provides entertainment for patients in the children’s wing…patients can even play a game of virtual hockey!

Ryan Carter and Troy Bodie visited hospitalized children at Duke Children’s Hospital. From what I hear, one young girl had both Bodie and Carter singing “the wheels on the bus.” Aside from room to room visits, both guys visited with patients in the playroom, played some Wii, and left each patient with an early Hurricanes holiday gift and autographs.

Last, but certainly not least, I was with Jamie McBain, Jiri Tlusty and the Santa-dressed Stormy at North Carolina Children’s Hospital. We visited with kids in the outpatient clinic before heading to the play atrium. All three guests passed out Stormy beanie babies, NHL Dream Capsules, Hockey Fights Cancer blankets, knit hats and bobbleheads to patients in the hospital. A few of my favorite moments of the visit were:
  • Stormy jumping on drums of Rockband while Tlusty and McBain traded off on guitar and a young girl took the mic.

  • A young boy who had the most contagious laugh had everyone in the entire playroom fixated on his stare-down with Stormy. It brought me to tears (in a good way) because I could not stop laughing.

  • The guys were surprised when a young patient came in with her Carolina Hurricanes jersey ready to be signed!

  • There was a young boy who was playing by himself, and Jamie McBain sat down on the floor beside him to play “kitchen.” He had new friends before the session was over.
These are just a few of the stories that I can personally share with you. But, the hospital visits are always an eye-opening, pinch myself moment when I realize the impact our players and team can have with the smallest gesture. It definitely makes me want to pay if forward… However, the giving continued into the afternoon with our annual Target shopping event. Four children selected from the Fuquay-Varina Youth Initiative/4-H Youth Development and PLM Families Together earned the opportunity to go holiday gift shopping with Erik Cole, Justin Peters, Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer.

Each selected child was paired with one of our players to buy holiday gifts for themselves and their families. The guys were given $250 Target gift cards, courtesy of the Carolina Hurricanes, but as has been the case in years past, each player went beyond expectations and chipped in his own money to make sure these families would have an unforgettable holiday. Here are some highlights from the day:
  • One young girl shopping with Justin Peters was more concerned with buying gifts for her family than herself. It took a little push to make sure she was treating herself this holiday season.

  • Brandon Sutter told me that he learned about shopping for women’s clothing and jewelry since he was paired with a 14-year old girl. But, this girl also took home a Wii for her to share with her two brothers.

  • Erik Cole’s shopper, a young 10 year old boy, likes all sports, and Erik made sure that he would keep playing hockey by buying him a street hockey set.

  • Patrick Dwyer encouraged a young girl that she needed earrings to match the necklace she was putting in her cart.

All these anecdotes are heart warming, but I had a conversation with a mom of one of the kids that really made me appreciate the generosity of our players and organization. The mom told me that she had just had a conversation with her children telling them that due to economic constraints and bills that had to be paid, they were not going to have a traditional Christmas. But, soon after this conversation, she received a call saying that her daughter (and family) had been selected to participate in this shopping. It was definitely meant to be…

For those players that did not participate in the hospital visits or Target shopping, they were busy shooting a segment promoting the Pound for Pound Challenge and packing book bags for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC’s backpack program. Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Chad LaRose, Ian White, Sergei Samsonov, and Brandon Sutter all participated in the backpack food-filling event and pledged to stay healthy for the Pound for Pound Challenge. For every pound you pledge to lose (or in our players’ cases, pledge to stay healthy), the Pound For Pound Challenge will donate 14¢ to Feeding America® — enough to deliver one pound of groceries to a local food bank.

I hope that you can see how this day is my favorite day, and I also hope that you are able to find ways to find some joy this holiday season.
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