Tuesday marked the third straight year that four Canes players have helped fulfill the wish list of four Triangle area children.
This year, we again had two kids, Fabian and Joshua, who attend the Durham Nativity School. This is a great non-profit middle school in Durham that is much like a private school but all students attend on scholarship. The other two kids were members of StepUP Ministry, an organization in Raleigh that helps teach job skills and financial accountability to families (the focus is on the parents, but kids receive the same style training as their parents).
Both are organizations that have very high standards for their participants and both sent terrific kids who deserved to have a few of their wishes fulfilled.
From the Canes side, we had four new “Santa Canes”. Making their first forays into the shopping side were Erik Cole, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward and Chad LaRose. As expected, each was terrific with their match.
Erik shopped with O’Sheala from StepUP. O’Sheala is a 13-year-old honor student who is now a junior counselor at StepUP. O’Sheala told Eric that she had all “A’s” and one “B” this semester, the lone “B” coming in science, which they both agreed was tough for them. O’Sheala’s mom joined the shopping for part of the afternoon, all the way until O’Sheala asked her to look in another part of the store so she could shop for her mom. Eric played the role of personal shopper very well as he had input on several of the more “adult” decisions (he knew more about cookware than I expected).
Stephane was paired with young 7-year-old Xavier. I was told beforehand that Xavier is a great big brother to his sister (5) and his brother (1). That was evident from the start as he immediately talked about toys he was going to buy for them to share. I told him that I was not good at sharing with my brother when I was a kid and he looked at me like that was a completely foreign idea. Xavier was terrific, only asking for a few toys, while happily focusing on new clothes and necessities. The hour of shopping was just about enough for Xavier as he looked a little tired checking out. I asked him if he had fun, and he emphatically said “Yes, but now I am ready to play.”
Aaron was with Fabian, a 6th grade student from Durham Nativity School. Fabian got to do a few things for the first time on his own, like try on jeans and polo shirts. Aaron, a very fashionable person, made sure that Fabian was ready to come back to school after Christmas break in style.
Chad spent the afternoon with Joshua, also a 6th grade student at Durham Nativity. Joshua was focused from the start as he came in with a wish list in hand. Chad happily spent time in the electronics section to start the day. You could easily tell that Chad understood what it was like to be a teenage boy in the video game aisle. As I expected, Chad was a natural with Joshua.
Other things that I witnessed that made me smile
- O’Sheala admitted that she cased out the store early so she could efficiently shop with the Canes player (Cole).
- When one of the toys O’Sheala had picked out for a relative was sold out, Erik asked the Target attendant if he could drive Erik’s car to the Target on Capital to pick up the toy. Erik provided a gift card at the end to cover the missing toy and several other items instead (much safer move in my opinion).
- Aaron, who has been working on his Spanish, was happy that Fabian said his Spanish speaking abilities were “not bad.” He said he used to receive “No Bueno” as the response…so he is improving.
- The shopping lasted a little over one hour, and Chad made sure he stayed to help load all of the bags for Fabian and Joshua. Joshua asked him to sign several of the games and toys that Chad had just purchased…probably the first time Chad has signed a copy of Gran Tourismo or a Spiderman Motorcyle (for Joshua’s nephew)
- Both Erik and Stephane received big hugs from the families attending once the group picture was taken.
- Several Canes fans were on-hand. Several took photos with the players but all were very respectful of the players and their shopping partners. Chad made sure “his new friend” Joshua was in all of his photos.
- Every child who shopped bought as much for others as they did themselves…an amazing thing to watch as I know I would not have had that much restraint at their age.
- The Carolina Hurricanes provide the players with a $150 gift card. After a few players spent a good deal of their own money (happily) the first year, we tried to set a limit of $150 extra from the players in order to keep everyone participating in the same ballpark. I did not see everyone checkout, but the two that I did finish with both went well over the matching number. I privately made sure they both understood that was not necessary…but as they both quickly responded the same way…”I am happy to do it”.