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Holiday Helpers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Click here for a full gallery of the Islanders holiday toy shop.

The New York Islanders bucked the trend on Cyber Monday, showing up in person to a Toys “R” Us brick and mortar store to pick out gifts for their upcoming holiday hospital visits.

The players, wives and girlfriends hit the store at 6:30 a.m., combing the aisles for the hottest toys this season. By 8 a.m., the shopping carts were overflowing with over 600 gifts for Long Island kids.

“It’s definitely something that’s very special to us, it’s something we really enjoy,” Josh Bailey said. “Going to the hospital and seeing kids at this time of the year is tough, but we do our best to try and make their day a little bit better for them and their families. We take a lot of pride in it.”

The younger players, like Bailey and Matt Martin, channeled their inner child, buying street-hockey sticks, Nerf guns, bow and arrow sets and board games, but needed help buying gifts for girls and toddlers. That’s why Bailey brought his fiancé and Martin brought his girlfriend.

“There was an infant category which I didn’t do too well in,” Martin said. “I wanted to get action figures and things like that, but she reminded me that they need soft things. She picked out the stuffed animals and things like that.”

Martin isn’t totally out of touch with what’s popular for young girls. The Islanders tough guy happens to be an avid fan of Frozen and picked out several “Olaf” dolls and DVD’s.

“[My girlfriend and I] did the Frozen thing for Halloween and we know it’s a big thing this year,” Martin said.

We’re happy to do it for that day when we do make the hospital visits to see the kids facesKyle Okposo

Matt Carkner brought two experts to Toys “R” Us, letting his two sons help pick out gifts for their peers. Carkner uses the event to instill charitable and family values. Nine-year-old Chase Carkner showed that he had an appreciation for what his family was doing on Monday.

“The first thing Chase said this morning was that it’s really cool to be able to do something like this,” Carkner said. “It’s a good time of year to give back and for us to come out here, it’s pretty exciting, especially bringing my boys.”

The payoff for Monday’s toy shop won’t be realized for several weeks, when the Islanders hand deliver the hand-picked gifts to kids in local hospitals.

“It’s an early morning for us, but we’re happy to do it for that day when we do make the hospital visits to see the kids faces,” Kyle Okposo said. “It’s pretty special.”

And taking the time to go to the store, instead of buying the toys online, makes it all the more special.

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