When Andrew Ference introduced Inner City High’s principal, Joe Cloutier as the captain of the school, the gymnasium erupted with applause and cheers as the students of Inner City High praised their leader. Captain-to-captain, Ference presented the school with a crested ‘Inner City High’ jersey for display with both leaders addressing the crowd of students and Oilers players, each taking a moment to celebrate this unique school and to help kick off the holiday season.
An annual tradition hosted by the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF), the Holiday Luncheon saw 135 Inner City High students mixing and mingling with the entire Oilers roster and GM Craig MacTavish. This year’s luncheon was particularly special with the completed school playing host to the festive affair.
“Having the team here and having the Oilers provide this luncheon means everything to the students; we have a group of people here that often feel unrecognized and not respected and so for them, today is important, it’s really important to have the Oilers here to visit them,” said Joe Cloutier, Inner City High Principal. “I know these students so well and so to see all of their smiles today, I know they are having a good time with the team and their spirits are being lifted this holiday season.”
While the students collected autographs and photos with their favourite players, it was a rare moment for these inner-city kids to relax and enjoy a Christmas meal with their hockey heroes.
“The Oilers believe in inner-city youth and understand what we’re going through,” said Dalton Logan, a Grade 11 student at Inner City High. “They’re showing us they really do care and they’re making us better people.”
During lunch, the players spread out amongst the students and instead of all of the questions being directed at the guys in orange and blue, the students were happily surprised to be the ones doing the talking. For upgrade student, Destiny Alexander, her first holiday luncheon found her seated across from Jordan Eberle.
“He was asking me questions about my school, my journey here and he was really interested in listening to us and for me, I’ll always remember that,” Destiny reflected.
“I can really feel that people care about us and it makes waking up and coming to school an easy decision. Our teachers, the Oilers Foundation, the players are all pushing us and leading us in a good way, and at the same time we’re looking up to all of them as leaders.”
Flagged by festive tunes and good company, the real core message of the day certainly did not go unnoticed by the Oilers players on-hand.
“This community and the people that make up this school and that make up today, it’s about how much they give and how committed they are to making this space safe,” said Ference.
“These students are incredible, I’ve met wonderful kids today like Skye who reminds us all how special it is to have a solid community stand behind us. Our whole team here is wishing these kids all the best this holiday season, and always.”