With the help of Mix 102.9, Wal-Mart, the Dallas Stars and many others, Christmas came early for more than 20 children in five families who thought it may not be coming at all this season.
Five families were chosen to go on a magical journey to the North Pole, where Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting to give each family a vast array of Christmas presents, purchased by wives of the Dallas Stars with the help of Wal-Mart and Mix 102.9. Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph and a real-life Blitzen were also there to spread holiday cheer.
The chosen families, nominated by friends and family due to their unfortunate circumstances this year, boarded the Dallas Stars’ private airplane, thanks to Stars’ owner Tom Hicks, who donated the plane to be used as this year’s Jingle Jet.
“This event would not have been possible without the help and the blessing of the Hicks family,” said Carla Rosenberg, executive director of the Stars Foundation. “Allowing us to use the team plane made the entire event that much more magical and unforgettable for everyone involved. We can’t thank them enough for their support, and the Paradigm Air flight crew for donating their time.
“It was wonderful to see everyone’s excitement boarding the plane,” she continued. “Some of them have never seen a plane before. Taxiing around the runway and the feeling of virtually taking off was a wonderful experience for these children.”
Upon arriving at the North Pole, each family had a designated Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped presents of all shapes and sizes for the children. Gifts included bikes (which were quickly mounted and drove around the airplane hanger), iPods, Nintendo DS, clothes, jackets, boots, even makeup for some of the older girls.
“The shopping was awesome. It took longer than we anticipated, but it was amazing,” Mandy Modano said. “We had a big turnout of wives, got paired into teams and given our family and their list. Wal-Mart gave us $1,000 to spend and it was hard to decide what to get, so we went for needs first – things like shoes and coats. Anything the $1,000 didn’t cover or maybe wasn’t at Wal-Mart, it was each wife’s responsibility to go find stuff. It was good, really good.”
Mandy did some extra shopping for her chosen family, driving as far as Arlington for a specific pair of boots one of the girls was hoping for.
“Look at them!” She said as she watched with tears in her eyes as the four girls opened their gifts. “It feels so good. It’s a great feeling to be able to help his family have a wonderful Christmas.”
Other wives in attendance were Joel Lundqvist’s wife, Amanda; Loui Eriksson
’s wife, Micaela; Trevor Daley
’s wife, Kristy; Fabian Brunnstrom’s girlfriend, Sandy; Daryl Reaugh’s wife Kristin and Assistant GM Frank Provenzano's wife, Julie. Anne-Marie Morrow, Kelly Turco and Alexa Petersen joined in the shopping but were not able to attend the event.
It was an emotional experience for all of the adults – parents, grandparents, caregivers and those that nominated these families. Tears flowed freely as each family was presented a check for $1,000 from Capital One Bank. Hugs, smiles and thank yous abounded as gift after gift was opened and celebrated.
“It’s the time of year when you’re supposed to be happy and in great spirits,” said Tony Zazza, host of the Morning Mix on 102.9. “The response with the kids has been phenomenal, seeing all their smiles. Last year I didn’t last five minutes once we arrived without tears flowing down. They just love it, and they’re so excited to meet Santa.”
Santa made his rounds, saying hello, taking pictures and sitting down for milk and cookies with the children as he read The Night Before Christmas.
“I’m just so happy and excited,” said Doris, one of the family’s grandmothers. “We’ve had so much death in the family, and it helps take away the grieving to get away. I’m having such a nice time out here. It’s going to be best Christmas they’ve ever had.”
The O. family received an extra special gift as their father, Gary, surprised them by attending the festivities. Gary, battling esophageal cancer, was released by doctors from his rehab facility for four hours in order to attend.
“He said they’re going to call the hospital cops on him if he doesn’t return!” his wife, Rhea, joked. “We found out yesterday he was going to be able to attend, and we didn’t tell the kids, so they were surprised. They said, ‘All this, and Dad, too? How did Santa make that possible?’ This has been very exciting. I wish there were better words in the English language to express thank you and appreciation!”
“I think this is the greatest thing about any pro sport is that you have opportunities like this,” said Wendy Tippett, wife of Head Coach Dave Tippett. “It’s just awesome and the absolute best part of the job.”