Normally when Santa Claus comes to town he flies solo, but this year in Oil Country, he had a number of helpers on-hand in the form of seven Oilers players, delivering gifts to patients at The Stollery Children’s Hospital last Wednesday. The team was making their list and checking it twice prior to embarking on an epic shopping trip at Toys ‘R Us to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of 150 very deserving children
After practice, the entire Oilers roster hit the toy store, overflowing their shopping carts with thousands of dollars worth of presents. The initiative was brought to life after Captain Andrew Ference suggested the idea amongst his teammates.
“Our guys anteed up and just jumped right in to fill the trucks with toys,” said Ference. “We all wanted to do what we can to make these kids happy and it’s 100 per cent worth it.”
Following Monday’s shopping adventure, seven Oilers, including Ference, Mark Arcobello, Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron, Justin Schultz and Nick Schultz headed to the Stollery on Wednesday. Donning Santa hats, they were acting like toy experts making sure every child received exactly what he or she wanted.
“We were here for our annual hospital visit only a few weeks ago so you see some familiar faces and it really hits home how long some of these families are here,” said Ference. “Especially over the holidays you want to do anything you possibly can to help because it breaks your heart.”
One familiar face included four-week-old Maverick who recently underwent a nine-hour open heart surgery. His older brothers, three-year-old Brody and two-year-old Colten, had previously asked Ference if their baby brother could somehow be part of the team, and on November 21 vs. the Panthers, Maverick’s photo was taped to the locker room floor beneath the Oilers logo.
Brody and Colten were on the hunt for the perfect present for their baby brother, and with a little help from Justin Schultz, the boys snagged a couple of cool cars, plush-baby toys and an autographed Oilers poster to enjoy over the holidays. Watching the Oilers care so much about her family was emotional for their Mom.
“The Oilers have taken the time to hang out with people like us who need all the positive energy we can get,” said Rachel Vanderzwaag. “They’ve helped us celebrate Christmas by bringing all kinds of cheer here to the hospital. Words can’t really describe how much this means to my family.”
Gifts aside, the new Oilers initiative certainly helped brighten many children’s days heading into the holiday season.
“These kids are going through a lot and if we can come in here and help take their minds off of the tough stuff even for just a little bit then it’s pretty special,” said Justin Schultz. “The smiles on the kids’ faces are priceless.”