In two weeks, the New York Islanders will hand deliver toys to kids in local hospitals for the holidays, but the process to make that happen started early Tuesday morning.
With the Islanders preparing for a game in Montreal, their wives and girlfriends were up before dawn, shopping for holiday gifts at Target in Westbury.
Their carts overflowed with toys during the early morning shopping spree, ranging from dolls to stuffed animals - Jen Citrullo's plush, rainbow-colored narwhal was arguably the biggest hit - to board games. Naturally, a couple of mini hockey sets were included, as they picked out over 500 toys.
"It's so important for the guys and the organization to do something like this," Cassie Clutterbuck said. "Being in the hospital over the holidays, there's probably nothing worse, so getting to bring smiles and happiness to those kids is the best thing you can do at this time of year."
Through the team's annual visits, Sydney Martin knows the impact the gifts have on kids and their families who have to spend the holidays in the hospital. She can picture the smiles as she pulls an American Girl Doll off the shelf.
Video: Holiday Toy Shopping
"If we can give back to a kid or a family that can't be at home for Christmas and spark any amount of joy or make any good memory for them during the holiday season then I think we're doing a good thing and we're grateful to do it," Martin said.
The wives and girlfriends have a little fun while doing it, reminiscing about some of the toys that bring back childhood memories. Martin was shocked - or rather pleasantly surprised - to see a Sega Genesis at Target. Clutterbuck saw a lot of familiar toys on the shelves that she'd bought her daughters over the years.
The annual toy shopping event is just one of many community events the Islanders are staging during the holiday season. The wives and girlfriends recently volunteered at the Mary Brennan Inn and will host an adopt-a-family event, while the coach's wives decorated and auctioned off a Christmas tree at the UCPN's Festival of Trees. The team recently hosted a pair of holiday food drives and will be holding a toy drive on Dec. 21. The wives and girlfriends are proud to be a part of the Islanders tradition of giving back to the community.
"It's just important that we get to do something," Clutterbuck said. "The guys are out there doing things all the time for the team. For us to be a part of something and to help and volunteer our time, it's fun for us to do this and to support the community and the families that support our husbands every day."