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Oilers ring in the holiday season with annual community luncheon

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Andy Devlin

Cheers filled the gymnasium of Inner City High School as the Edmonton Oilers arrived for the annual holiday luncheon Thursday.

A festive atmosphere for one and all, the afternoon event gave students and players the chance to sit down together to kick off the Christmas season.

“I actually really loved it to be honest, it was good to meet the players,” said Samantha Duguay-Smith, a student at Inner City High school and first time luncheon attendee.

“I find it’s important because it shows that they care, they want to be part of the community and not just players.”

For Oilers forward Taylor Hall, it’s his sixth year attending the holiday luncheon.

“It’s fun…it’s amazing to see the improvements that the kids make, whether it’s year to year or just the new kids that they have in here, everyone’s making strides and it’s a tremendous facility,” he said.

With the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) and entire Oilers roster present, the players had the chance to share in some quality time with the students of Inner City High.

In addition to a festive feast, the players and students swapped stories, took photos and had the opportunity to sign and receive a special poster created for the holiday event.

“Any time you get the opportunity to get into the community with the Foundation and see the things that they do for the people of Edmonton, it’s awesome for us as players to be able to come out and take part in events like this,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.

Richard Wong, EOCF Chair, was thrilled with the afternoon gathering, noting what a special opportunity this is for not only the students, but the players as well.

"It’s really a celebration of what we do all year round. Today is a wonderful opportunity to connect the players with some of Edmonton’s bright youth who, given their social circumstances, don’t often feel accepted by the community. Not only do they feel supported, but they get to meet some of Edmonton’s best role models and just focus on having fun for an afternoon.”

Photo by Andy Devlin

Joe Cloutier, Director of Inner City High School, recognizes the hope this brings to the students around the holidays; a time that can often be difficult for those already struggling.

“It’s a nice and exciting experience for us, and I’d like to thank the EOCF for their support,” said Joe Cloutier, Director of Inner City High School.

For Duguay-Smith, Inner City High has been the nurturing and open environment that has allowed her to pursue further education.

“When I first came back to the school last semester, I was 24 thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to come here because I thought I was too old. Now, I have two beautiful girls and want to start my career as a social worker.”

A testament to the school’s care-focused mandate and the students’ hard work, Inner City High is devoted to transforming lives by helping youth fulfill their personal aspirations; something the EOCF is proud to be a part of.

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