Walking with Sharks goaltender Thomas Greiss
, David and Daniel's faces lit up when they saw the bundle of presents they were about to receive. After a difficult year, seeing her two kids happy was a welcome sight for Gloria Chavez.
"My kids have been through a lot lately," Gloria said. "I'm a single parent raising my two kids and this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hearing the word 'cancer' is pretty traumatic, but they've been handling it well. Like the Sharks, we're a team. We love each other and we're taking it one day at a time."
While Gloria has been able to keep her family afloat through love and support, the difficulties of being a single mom undergoing chemotherapy has proven to be especially challenging.
"Like many families nowadays, we're struggling to make ends meet. My kids are big Sharks fans and wanted Sharks stuff for Christmas, but I couldn't afford it."
Gloria's family—along with 41 other families with similar stories of adversity—was invited to the Sharks Foundation's annual "Holiday Assist Party" held on December 7th at Sharks Ice in San Jose. Referred to the Sharks Foundation by Healthy Start Family and Resource Center, the deserving families spent the night interacting with players, coaches, broadcasters and front office staff and were treated to ice skating, arts & crafts, an Outback Steakhouse dinner and gifts.
"We've bought gifts for some less fortunate families to give them a Merry Christmas,"" Sharks forward Logan Couture said. "Obviously they can't afford some of the gifts that we're able to, so it's nice to give back to them."
Sharks Captain Joe Thornton added, "Christmas time is a great time to give back and to see the joy on the kids' eyes when they see these presents is pretty good."
For many families, the event was a welcome respite from their daily lives and an evening that'll be embedded in their memories for years to come.
"We're still in a dream right now" Gloria said. "Everybody treated us with kindness and respect. We can't believe that we were able to meet the players. This was a night that my children will cherish forever."
"I know what it's like to go through hard times. I'm glad the Sharks Foundation has an event like this to allow other families to experience a happy holidays."
Gloria summed up the essence of the night perfectly. "Once I start feeling better, finish my treatments, and get on my feet, I want to be able to give back and do this for another family."
Healthy Start Family Resource Center teamed up with the Sharks Foundation to create this unique event for 42 families.
The Healthy Start Family Resource Center is a student and family support program in the San Jose Unified School District. The mission of Healthy Start Family Resource Center is to provide integrated and easily accessible health and social services to no/low income children and families in an effort to assist them with maximizing their potential in areas of health, education and family functioning. Healthy Start is a partnership of schools and communities agencies providing direct and referral services to the children and their families in San Jose Unified School District.