Syracuse Crunch | | Tim Durr
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Crunch shopped with children in TJ Maxx at Destiny USA Wednesday in support of the Hillside Family of Agencies Special Santas program.
Five Crunch players, Henri Ikonen, Kevin Lynch, Tanner Richard, Joel Vermin and Luke Witkowski, teamed up with Hillside youth and staff members to load shopping carts full of presents to donate to the Special Santa program.
“It’s a really great experience to know that we can make these kids smile,” said Crunch forward Henri Ikonen. “It’s great to give these kids great Christmas presents. It means a lot to them and it’s fun for me, too.”
Fans attending Friday’s Crunch game against the Hartford Wolf Pack can also support the Special Santas program, as the team hosts the annual Gift Wish Drive. Collected gifts will benefit local youth and families served by Hillside Family of Agencies in Central New York.
“A lot of these kids are in foster care and don’t even have an opportunity to have a Christmas some years,” said Crunch defenseman Luke Witkowski. “I enjoy the moments like this. It means more to put a name to a face and see the smiles on people’s faces. It means more than just donating money.”
Tanner Richard participated in last year’s shopping spree and said he loves the opportunity to give something back to the Syracuse community that supports the team all season.
“Last year was a great experience,” Richard said. “Coming here with the kids and seeing their eyes light up and seeing the idea that these are gifts that they’ll be getting for Christmas, makes it all worth it for me.”
The wish list for Friday’s Gift Wish Drive includes arts and crafts materials, backpacks, bath and body sets, cosmetics, hand-held electronics (under $25), gloves and hats, sports equipment and watches to kids in need. A full list can be found on the Special Santas blog. All gifts should be new and unwrapped. Items can be brought to the War Memorial Arena entrances and to the Crunch’s Guest Services Office before, during and after the game.