After reflecting on last week, I could not be more proud of our Hurricanes players, coaches, staff and fans. The generous spirit of our organization from the top down never ceases to amaze me. The week was full of giving and receiving joy in return. Below are a few of the highlights.
On Dec. 19, a majority of the Carolina Hurricanes players and coaches spread out to local hospitals to visit child patients and help bring a smile to their faces. The team went to UNC Children’s Hospital, Duke Children’s Hospital, WakeMed Hospital and Rex Hospital. The hospital visits definitely tug at your heart strings, but it is exhilarating to see how the players are able to distract the kids for at least a moment from their daily medical battles.
I went to WakeMed with Eric Staal
, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jaroslav Spacek
, Bryan Allen
and Assistant Coach Dave Lewis. My group was eager to visit around 30 patients. They handed out bobbleheads, blankets, posters and other Hurricanes themed gifts. A little girl had just come out of a major surgery and she was resting in her bed. She was freezing, so Staal grabbed one our Hurricanes blankets and tucked her in to keep her warm. Ponikarovsky and Spacek said “Merry Christmas” in their respective languages to a few patients, and Allen brought smiles to every child he spoke to during the visit.
At Duke Children’s Hospital, Tuomo Ruutu
explained to a little girl how Santa Claus is from Finland and told her that he will tell Santa what she wants for Christmas. She told Ruutu that she really wants a cell phone, but her Mom told Ruutu that she had already gotten her wish for Christmas - a new heart. Her Mom was overjoyed that she could take her little girl home the next day with a brand new heart to spend Christmas in the comfort of their home.
The day was filled with encouraging stories of children celebrating victories over the illnesses they have battled. Unfortunately, there was also stress and sorrow with some of the precious children that did not have good prognoses or were in for a long fight. Our players were not able to heal any of the children from their pain and exhaustion, but they did bring smiles to a lot of little faces that woke up in the hospital on Christmas morning.Target Shopping
The giving continued on Dec. 19 with Target shopping in the afternoon. Four children selected from the Durham Nativity School and PLM Families Together earned the opportunity to go holiday gift shopping with Jay Harrison
, Anthony Stewart
, Jamie McBain
and Tim Brent
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 team, 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:
- A little boy named Jordy, who was paired with Jay Harrison, picked out gifts for every member of his family before he picked out a gift for himself.
- There was sheer excitement on every boy’s face as they were receiving advice from their player on what to buy.
- The boy that was paired with Anthony Stewart said it was awesome to be able to hang out with a professional athlete who made him feel like they were on the same level.
- The boy that was paired with Jamie McBain took his time on picking out clothes and shoes. We found out later that he doesn’t have a warm bed to sleep in, so he was making adult decisions by making sure he had jeans, boots and a warm coat. Jamie made his day when he told him he wanted to buy him a Playstation 3. At first, the boy refused because he said he was thrilled to have clothes, but Jamie walked him over to electronics. When the Playstation 3 was put in his cart, I have never seen such pure joy in a child’s face. He will remember this day for years to come.
The afternoon at a local Target would not have been possible without the generosity of Jay, Anthony, Jamie and Tim. For the four kids that were chosen, they were not going to receive any Christmas presents this year because of the situations life has thrown at them. Thanks to our players, they received everything on their wish lists and have four new role models.Visit to Fort Bragg
On Thursday, Dec. 22, we made a visit to Fort Bragg to help a military family get their Christmas back. On Dec. 9, the Jacobson Family was robbed of all of their Christmas presents and electronics in their house. U.S. Army SSG Patrick Jacobson is on break before a nine-month redeployment to Afghanistan at the end of January. This will be his fourth deployment since he joined the Army. He had been saving money and sold his truck to have enough money to visit his sons in New York before he is deployed. When they were robbed, he didn’t think he was going to be able to make the trip.
Aaron Ward, a former Carolina Hurricanes player, caught wind of the story and wanted to do something to help out a deserving family in need. Aaron reached out to the Carolina Hurricanes Alumni Group and they decided to help save Christmas for this family. The former players joined together to buy all of the Christmas presents that were stolen, plus items like a laptop, Nintendo DS’s for the two kids, an iPod Nano, a camera and other items.
Santa Stormy, former Hurricanes player Shane Willis and other Hurricanes staff drove down to Fayetteville before the Christmas weekend to deliver the gifts from the players. It was wonderful to meet the family and to bring smiles back to their faces. R.J., one of the Jacobson children, opened the Nintendo DS and starting saying thank you over and over again to Stormy. He said, “Stormy, you must be psychic, because this is exactly what I want for Christmas!”
The joy continued as the parents were able to watch their kids open some of the presents from the Hurricanes players. Some of the presents were left wrapped under the tree so that they would all have some to open on Christmas morning.
Shane Willis also presented the family with a $450 gift card to Target and a certificate for a night in the Alumni Luxury Suite at a Carolina Hurricanes home game.
It is so impressive to see our Hurricanes Alumni join together on their own to make a decision to bring happiness back to a family. Because of our players, SSG Jacobson and his wife will be able to Skype on their new laptop when he is in Afghanistan, SSG Jacobson will be able to make the trip to see his three little boys before he is deployed and Tatianna and R.J. will wake up on Christmas morning with gifts wrapped under their tree.
What a week! It is truly remarkable to take a step away from our busy schedules to reflect on all of our player events this past week. It made me realize how blessed most of us are and how important it is to think about others and to give back in any way we can. Thank you to all of our players, staff, coaches and fans who have chosen to think about others this season. From all of us here at the Carolina Hurricanes, Happy Holidays!