The holidays came early this year, as the Islanders wives and girlfriends spent Wednesday evening at Northwell Health Ice Center. The wives and girlfriends gave hand-selected gifts to a family they "adopted" through the Isles partnership with Family and Children's Association (FCA) and spent the evening with the families.
"It's so nice to see their names and what they want," Grace Lee said. "But then you get to actually meet them and see them open their gifts. You get to put a name and a face together. I feel like it's really personal. It's not like you don't get to know where the gifts are going or personally give them. I think one of the best things about this event is that you get to do it in person, and we do it all as an Islander family."
The touching evening was special as the wives and girlfriends got to witness the gleeful holiday spirit and tears of joy unfolding from the nearly 20 families who were selected to receive holiday gifts for their children, share dinner together and even receive a surprise visit from Santa Claus himself.
"Holiday times are very stressful for families," FCA representative Donna Teichmer said. "But when they know we're able to bring the holiday season to them they are able to look forward to it. Without that, some families find it hard to embrace the holidays."
For the wives and girlfriends, the event is particularly meaningful as they get to see the process out beginning to end. The prep for the night begins with a list of names of the family they adopted and a detailed compilation of what the children would like for the holidays. The wives and girlfriends then shop for the gifts themselves, wrap them and bring them to the event before spending the evening meeting the families and watching the pure exuberance that radiates from the child's face as they unwrap the gift.
The night was special for Lauren Eberle, who will be wrapping gifts for her own little one next year as her and her husband Jordan are expecting their first child this March.
"Each of us adopted a family," Eberle said. "We got the names of the kids, what they were asking for and some things for the holidays. Some of the things are things they need like backpacks and shoes and some things that they like. Everyone bought for their families, wrapped them all up and we got to celebrate together. It's the most important thing. It's lovely seeing all of these kids all of these ages. I know every single gift is going to make their days. I want to give what we can give to our kids. That's the best part."
For Simone Tolliver, words couldn't due the emotion justice of watching her daughter's face light up as she unwrapped her presents, but she expressed her gratitude of the evening.
"It made me really, really happy," Tolliver said. "This is going to be memorable for her. This is something that's really special and I'm really happy that I was able to bring her. I appreciate everything from the bottom of my heart."
The Islanders family know how tight knit their community is and it's why they value the importance of giving back. The Adopt-a-Family program is a favorite for the personal connections they establish and appreciation for what it means to be a family. For more information about the FCA please contact info@FCALI.org or visit https://fcali.org/.