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Penguins Wives Decorate Pumpkins with Patients

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

As the Penguins Wives Association prepared to decorate pumpkins with young patients at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center, they heard screams of excitement coming from the room they were about to enter.

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“The kids were just over the moon. They were absolutely thrilled that the Penguins wives and girlfriends were going to come in,” said Pamela Schanwald, CEO of the facility.

But while the children couldn’t wait to get started, the ladies couldn’t either.

“It was a great way to kick off Halloween, I must say,” said Erin Lilly, fiancée of defenseman Brooks Orpik. “I think we were equally as excited.”

The girls actually approached the Penguins’ community relations department a few weeks ago about wanting to do a fun activity with children going through tough times in order to brighten up their holiday, and the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center turned out to be the perfect place to host such an event.

Joining Lilly at the Shadyside facility was Veronique Larosse (fiancée of Marc-Andre Fleury), Kristen Sullivan (wife of Steve Sullivan), Melissa Engelland (wife of Deryk Engelland), Heather Dysievick (girlfriend of Jordan Staal) and Catherine LaFlamme (girlfriend of Kris Letang).

They worked with kids up to 8 years old in a section of the facility called Child’s Way, who are pre- or post-transplant patients. They may have breathing tubes, feeding tubes or need to be monitored because of failure to thrive (not gaining weight).

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The Sullivans have four children of their own, so they understand completely how enjoyable Halloween – with trick-or-treating, costumes and candy – is for kids. And it meant a lot to Kristen to be able to spread some joy to these patients who may not be able to fully celebrate the day.

“Obviously Halloween is the fun one,” Kristen smiled. “Carving and decorating pumpkins is a favorite to my children, so I know it’s special to other children too.

“To be able to help them decorate and just kind of help them get into the holiday spirit when they have to be away from their homes is kind of something really important and special to me.”

The Penguins Wives Association provided all of the pumpkins and the decorations they used for Tuesday’s visit. Lilly and Larosse actually spent all Monday afternoon at Target purchasing the supplies they used for Tuesday’s visit – and they went all out. Not only did they gather stickers, markers and glitter, but they grabbed themed hats, pumpkin decorating kits and attachable eyes, arms and legs reminiscent of Mr./Mrs. Potatohead.

“Just seeing them actually decorate the pumpkins, it was so fun to watch the whole thing come together,” Lilly said. “Smiles all around on both the girls and the kids. That’s why these are fun things to do.”

Added Larosse, “It’s just awesome to be able to give back to a community like Pittsburgh. It’s doing so much for us and for our husbands and boyfriends, so we want to be able, when we can, to come and help out.”
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