TROY, Mich. – Mickey Guisewite was elated to have some extra volunteers around the toy warehouse to wrap presents on Tuesday. What made it even more special was where the help came from.
Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary, Tomas Tatar and Jonas Gustavsson stopped by The Bottomless Toy Chest in suburban Detroit to help wrap presents and meet with children and families affected by cancer.
“Having the Red Wings come to visit the Bottomless Toy Chest is huge for the Toy Chest and boosting our awareness,” said Guisewite, founder and executive director of non-profit organization. “We count on our community to support us so the more we can have awareness and people like the Red Wings come out and help us, yes it’s huge for us.”
Forming an assembly line, the five players collected coloring books and crayon packages alongside Toy Chest volunteers and five children who have been diagnosed with cancer. The presents will be distributed to six of the major pediatric cancer centers in Michigan.
Guisewite’s intent is for the gifts to help pediatric cancer patients the same way it helped her son, Jack, who was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago at the age of 12.
“There’s the physical side of cancer, obviously the medical personnel are there for that,” Guisewite said. “Then there’s the emotional side and The Bottomless Toy Chest is there to treat the emotional side of children who are going through cancer and to try to empower them and help them be mentally as strong as they can be.”
Each player presented a child on-site with a gift bag courtesy of International Bancard, containing assorted toys as well as a Red Wings hat and hockey puck for each of them.
“Obviously it’s a nice thing when you have time to do this,” Tatar said. “It’s always nice to help out those kids, like they need it and I think it just warms your heart when you see all these smiles.”
Tatar got particularly close with the children and spent much of the afternoon horsing around with them, playing and laughing. Hoping to go home with an extra toy, one boy named Royce even tried taking Tatar’s wristwatch off while they were playing around.
Although he did not give away his wristwatch, Tatar hopes that others in the community may be inspired by the team’s efforts and get involved as well.
“There’s lots of people (that) can follow us after, maybe we give them some impulse to do it too,” he said. “So if they see us we’re trying to help the community, they will join us.”
The visit and effort put forth by the Wings may have made a hockey fan out of Guisewite, who admitted she only followed the team’s playoff runs in years past.
This visit came after 13 other Wings players were dispatched to three different locations in metro Detroit prior to Tuesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Jimmy Howard, Justin Abdelkader, Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser and Luke Glendening stopped by Lincoln King Academy of Cornerstone Schools, where they read copies of the “ABC’s of Detroit Red Wings Hockey” to the students and fielded questions from the class.
Similarly, Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss and Kyle Quincey spent their morning at Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit where they helped serve breakfast alongside members of the Detroit Medical Center. The Soup Kitchen tends to people’s basic needs, stimulate minds and nourishes spirits as well as working to understand and address root causes of social injustice in the community.
And from yet another site in Detroit, Niklas Kronwall, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Brian Lashoff visited Alternatives for Girls. The Detroit-based nonprofit organization serves homeless and high-risk girls and young women as well as providing safe shelter, educational support, vocational guidance, mentoring, preventional activities and counseling.
The afternoon visit to The Bottomless Toy Chest concluded the Hockeytown Thanks community initiative, an effort that involved corporate partners Flagstar Bank, Detroit Medical Center, Allstate Insurance and International Bancard.
“I was excited to meet all of them,” Guisewite said. “To me, (they are) not only stars on the ice but they are true stars and heroes for coming out and supporting kids with cancer.”