Giving a Lift
Thunder players and Hockey Players for Kids bring holiday cheer to local youth
For most folks, Christmas Day means tradition including family, food, gifts and fun.
For others, having a morsel of that experience means the world.
On a Tuesday afternoon in December, Stockton Thunder players and Hockey Players for Kids (HP4K) brought some of that holiday cheer to a group of local youth from Stockton Children’s Home.
HP4K is an organization of hockey players across the country with a mission to interact with youth in their communities. One of their projects, “Give Moore for the Holidays”, was named for HP4K member Mike Moore, currently in the Nashville Predators farm system, for his volunteer work and efforts to bring joy to children, especially during the holidays.
“It’s a huge part of stuff we like to do – giving back to the community,” said Thunder captain Garet Hunt. “It really touches me because it’s a personal thing. Its players like us who chose to be a part of this organization.”
Hunt’s former teammate, Daryl Marcoux (now retired), was a catalyst in the local chapter which has touched the hearts and lives of local kids in the Central Valley for three years. Working together, Marcoux and Hunt organized the event this year. The Thunder players were given a name and “wish list” with instructions to purchase a few gifts.
The day arrived and everyone gathered in Stockton Arena’s club level. Santa Claus’ bright smile and a decorated Christmas tree were all part of the experience. It was clear there was no shortage of happiness by the looks of smiles on many youthful faces during the day. Ten tables were filled with a mixture of players, young people and Thunder hockey staff. They shared pizza, punch, candy canes and some interesting conversations.
When lunch was finished, Santa sat by the tree to hand out the presents. There was good natured cheers as each name was called. Kids took home a football, sports jersey, hat, toy car and various other gifts.
Hunt presented a collection of gifts from Bath and Body Works and a clutch purse to a young girl on his “secret Santa” list. A young boy took home a basketball, t-shirt and remote control car courtesy of his new buddy, Toni Rajala.
“It’s pretty nice,” said Rajala. “They’re unfortunate and it’s nice to be with them here. I think they’re happy to be here.”
“We were kids ourselves not too long ago,” said Hunt. “It’s good that we get to interact, touch base. Kids get to come out to some games, have fun and we get to take their mind off things.”
Tables and chairs were moved out of the way for an impromptu soccer kickball game with one of the gifts. In another part of the room, a new football was tossed around by both players and guests.
There was one last surprise before the group parted. Fifty tickets to the December 29th Thunder game against the Las Vegas Wranglers were donated to Stockton Children’s Home.
The club level had emptied by 2:00 p.m. and everyone involved took home a memory they would never forget.