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Red Wings give back to the community on the way to training camp

Helm, Glendening and the Lady Wings help furnish a home for a Detroit family

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - As much as going to Traverse City for training camp has become an annual tradition for the Red Wings, so has stopping along the way to help local organizations.

Before heading north, forwards Darren Helm and Luke Glendening took part in the east leg of the Community Tour while Anthony Mantha, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul went on the west leg.

First stop was at the Parade Company, where president and CEO Tony Michaels gave the two a behind-the-scenes tour of the ongoing preparations for America's Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van.

"The Red Wings are Detroit, the Parade Company is Detroit so to have them here is a great, great moment," Michaels said. "Our staff is so excited, our volunteers are excited and it just feels great. It really does, to be such a part of Detroit with the Detroit Red Wings."

Both players enjoyed seeing the employees and volunteers hard at work on all aspects of the parade, from designing and making floats to creating costumes for people to wear while riding the floats.

"It was a great experience for myself and Luke to come down here," Helm said. "I didn't realize what kind of production it took to get that parade up and running. It was definitely an experience I'm glad I took part of."

Helm and Glendening didn't just take photos and sign autographs, they also got to work painting part of one of the floats for this year's parade.

"I was a little nervous. I didn't want to mess it up," Glendening said. "But it's cool to see how many volunteers they have who keep coming back and continue to do this. To see it up close and personal is kind of spectacular."

Michaels said both Helm and Glendening are welcome back when they are finished with their hockey careers.

Who wouldn't want to work in a place like the Parade Company?

"It's kind of a magic land here," Michaels said. "Our job is to bring smiles to the people of Detroit, to the city of Detroit, to the kids, the families. The more we can do that, the better we can do it is so key. So to always think in terms of great, fun and kids, it doesn't get any better than that."

Helm has three young daughters and said they would love going to a parade and seeing all the colorful floats and characters.

"I definitely want to take them now," Helm said. "I wish I had the opportunity to bring them down here today, they would have had a blast, being able to see everything. Hopefully we can take them to the next one."

After the Parade Company, Helm and Glendening joined the Lady Wings at a Detroit house to help furnish it with the help of Humble Design.

Humble Design helps families transition out of homeless shelters into homes of their own by providing furnishings and design services.

The designers meet with the families to see what styles and colors they like and what things their kids would want for their rooms.

"We go back to our 12,000-square foot warehouse in Pontiac and then I like to say we shop our warehouse," said Lindsay Krempa, chief operating officer of Humble Design. "Designers will go and tag all the large furniture because we do walk into the home, 99 percent of the time it's completely empty. They're sleeping on the floor, they don't have dressers, nothing. So they go back to our warehouse and they gather all those items. Then our movers deliver the furniture. That's when our design team comes in with our volunteers, as (the Wings) are doing today, and we put the house together in about four hours. We do ask the family to leave, if they're able to, so they come back and it's like an extreme home makeover feel.

"It's amazing. Seeing the moms, just the smile on their face, and that relief, restoring that dignity. They're able to check that off their list and focus on the next. Seeing the kids run to their beds, the toys, we spoil them with books. It's just unbelievable. Every time I go down to a home, it just makes me so happy."

Helm and Glendening helped bring decorations and other supplies into the house, did some sweeping and made up the bunk beds for two of the children.

"It's great to be out here and be a part of it," Glendening said. "To know that a family has a home and that three kids are going to have someplace to sleep tonight with their mom, it's special."

Glendening admitted that the majority of the work was being done by the Lady Wings, a volunteer group made up of executives' and players' wives and significant others.

The Lady Wings' newest member, Jennifer Granger, wife of Chris Granger, group president of sports and entertainment, was excited to work alongside Kelle Ilitch, wife of Chris, CEO and president of Ilitch Holdings.

"For my husband and I, we're new from California, we just moved to Detroit and one of the reasons that we picked Detroit was we felt there was a lot of good work that was being done here already," Granger said. "So we're just so excited to be here and do the kind of work that we're doing today and making an impact on people's lives."

Because the players had to start the trek to Traverse City, they couldn't stay for the late afternoon reveal with the family.

But the Lady Wings were all looking forward to that moment.

"I actually asked somebody to pick up my kids (daughters Zoe and Megan) because I wanted to be here and see the family," Granger said. "For me, I can sit on boards and I love to do the strategy part but to come out and do the actual work is really what warms my heart. So I'm super excited to be here today."

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