The Penguins took some time after practice on Wednesday to participate in the Salvation Army’s “Project Bundle-Up” at the Dick’s Sporting Goods located at The Mall at Robinson.
Every player made an appearance at the event, which was hosted by Dick’s – the Penguins’ corporate sponsor – for the fifth straight year. Each player was paired with a local middle school child (or two children in some cases) and helped them pick out new winter clothing as part of the annual “Penguins Personal Shopping Day.”
The entire experience is absolutely rewarding for the Penguins, who look forward to spending time with the children every year.
"My favorite part is the looks on their faces. They smile. They’re excited," forward Evgeni Malkin
said, who was paired with 10-year-old Osman. "We're just happy to help. To see the kids smile just one time, it’s unbelievable."
In a neat twist, Osman was actually born in Russia before moving to the U.S. at the age of four.
And while he’s not fluent in the language, Osman does know a little bit of Russian and was able to exchange a few pleasantries with his favorite player.
“(Malkin) said, ‘how are you,’ in Russian and I said, ‘I’m good,’ in Russian,” Osman said.
Added Malkin, “Osman speaks a little bit of Russian. He’s a good guy. We did some shopping and bought some good clothes. I had a great time.”
Malkin and the rest of the Penguins traveled around the store with their little buddies gathering the essentials the children will need as the weather grows chillier here in Western Pennsylvania. Fighting the cold winter months is the reason why the Salvation helped launch Project Bundle-Up in the first place. Every year, children from families that are less fortunate are ensured that they won’t be cold during the long winter.
The kids, who were selected by the Salvation Army, are provided with essential winter clothing – jackets, hats, gloves, boots, scarves, etc. – and as an added bonus, they get to pick out their new winter wear with a Penguins player.
“It was very rewarding to be able to help out like this. The winters can be harsh and cold and you want them to have every opportunity to be well bundled up and enjoy winter,” said forward Steve Sullivan
, who’s a father of four and was participating in his first such event as a member of the Penguins.
“You don’t want to be out there freezing, you want them to be able to go outside, play and enjoy it. I think by being bundled up like that and having all of the essentials is a key part to it. So to be a part of it has been awesome.”
Like Sullivan, Pascal Dupuis
has four young children – including three little girls.
He's had a lot of experience taking his daughters to the store, so it worked out perfectly that he was paired with a vivacious little six-year-old named Arissa. The two had a blast picking out clothing that was all in her favorite color – pink.
“How’d we do? We do good?,” Dupuis asked his little partner that he dubbed ‘a pretty princess,’ adding, “A lot of pink stuff. Pretty much everything is pink in there except for the boots, but we still got pink on the boots.”
Arissa instantly took to Dupuis, even climbing up to sit on his knee while he knelt down to her size during the interview so she could give him a big hug – which warmed the Penguins winger's heart.
“We had a great time. It was perfect,” he smiled.
That just goes to show that while the kids are bursting with excitement to spend time with the Penguins, the players are just as happy to spend some quality time with their little counterparts.
“It’s always fun,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “We always have some good laughs with (the kids). It’s always a fun event.”