The entire Oilers roster headed to Laugh ‘N’ Learn right before the Christmas break, earning the assist for helping Santa out with his long list of gifts. It didn’t take long for the players to overflow their shopping carts with hundreds of presents, which were then gifted to deserving children and patients at both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital during the Oilers annual Hospital Visits.
Back for the second year in a row, the gifting initiative was brought to life last season after Captain Andrew Ference suggested the idea amongst his teammates, who didn’t give a second thought before jumping on board right away.
“I think it’s even more special that we actually got the gifts ourselves,” said Oilers winger David Perron. “It was great to see the smiles on their faces, especially when they first walk into the room and get to pick out what they want from the huge selection of gifts that we brought.”
For the players, giving back and immersing themselves in the community is of utmost importance all year round, but of course, means even more during the holiday season.
Left-winger Taylor Hall traded in his usual helmet for a Santa hat and found a new calling as chief toy expert during his Stollery visit. Hall was sure to check his list twice, doling out all the proper gifts as he helped patients of all ages pick out science kits, microscopes, helicopters, Hello Kitty toys and teddy bears.
“We just really wanted to make sure everyone loved what they got so we tried to put a lot of thought into the gifts. We each were responsible for a different age category,” shared Hall. “It seemed like every kid had a blast today and it also put a smile on our faces as well. I know I haven’t stopped smiling.”
One special patient in particular got more than she could have imagined for Christmas. In addition to receiving a life-sized plush snake, the Oilers good pal Avena from Kids with Cancer Society finally met her favourite player, Taylor Hall. According to Avena, he’s making the nice list as well.
“I’m so happy he’s here today. I wasn’t sure if he would be, but Taylor is the nicest. He’s my favourite Oiler and this is the best Christmas present,” shared eight-year-old Avena.
While select Oilers players handed out gifts at the Stollery and Glenrose, the rest of the team were busy boosting spirits at the Cross Cancer Institute, Capital Care Norwood, Grey Nuns Hospital, Misericordia Community Hospital, Sturgeon Community Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta Hospital. Oilers forwards Boyd Gordon and Mark Arcobello took to the trauma and hematology units at the U of A Hospital to cheer up patients.
“We’ve met a lot of special people and I hope we brightened their days a little bit,” shared Gordon. “Connecting with everyone means a lot to us and I’ll be thinking of each and every one of them. It’s a good takeaway to remember how important health is.”
This holiday season, the Oilers had plenty of good tidings and cheer to spread across Oil Country and until next year, they’ll be working on their list.