Jenelyn Russo

By Jenelyn Russo

Jenelyn Russo

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Anaheim Ducks Celebrate the Holidays with “Season of Giving”

With Christmas just a few days away, the Anaheim Ducks have been busy these past few weeks spreading the holiday cheer to kids in our community through their “Season of Giving” series of events. Here are a couple of the stops they made:

Wild Wing Brings Holiday Cheer to CHOC

Some of the brave little ones over at CHOC Children’s were treated to a fun surprise on Wednesday afternoon. Wild Wing, alongside Ducks assistant coach Bob Woods and several Ducks staff members, stopped by the Anaheim Ducks Wing on the 3rd Floor, bright orange goodie bags in hand, to spend some time with the kids in their playroom.

One by one, these tiny patients came into the space that serves as their escape. Some were a little apprehensive at the sight of the Ducks larger-than-life feathered mascot; others were as bold as could be. A few of the kids trailed an IV pole behind them, but that didn’t hinder them at all in their desire or ability to play.

Whether it was a mean game of air hockey, some closely contested games on the Wii, or just creative play with dump trucks and Play-Doh, Coach Woods and Wild Wing helped take these kids’ minds off of their reality, if but for a brief moment. Each child received some Ducks gear, including a hat, wristbands and stickers, and some fun memories to help them through the holidays.

“There’s nothing better than putting a smile on a child’s face,” said Ducks assistant coach Bob Woods of his first visit to CHOC. “I’ve participated in events like this before in other cities, and I’m happy to be able to continue to do that here in Orange County.”

There are big changes happening at Orange County’s only freestanding children’s hospital. We were greeted by CHOC’s brand new lobby space. Large, bright and welcoming, it’s fantastic to see the growth on the campus. With their beautiful new tower addition almost complete (Spring 2013), CHOC will be in an even better position to serve the children and families in our community. And that’s great news.

As parents, we never want to see our children have to deal with sickness or pain of any kind, least of all the kind that would keep them in the hospital for an extended stay, especially during the holidays. But CHOC is the best at what they do, and the Ducks relationship with them helped make the stay for these kids and their parents a little nicer this holiday season.


Ducks Host Holiday Shopping Spree for Students from The Wooden Floor

The Ducks continued their giving last Friday, as six deserving kids from The Wooden Floor were treated to a holiday shopping spree at the Wal-Mart in Foothill Ranch.

An after-school program located in Santa Ana, The Wooden Floor provides local kids from low-income families the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty through dance education and performance. Coupled with academic support and family counseling services, 375 students participate in intense dance training that helps them increase their confidence and self-esteem, paving the way for them to go on to college.

The success of this program is tremendous. Since 2005, 100 percent of the graduates of The Wooden Floor have completed high school on time and have gone on to enroll in higher education, compared to 35 percent of their socioeconomic peers.

The six students chosen for this event come from families very much in need this holiday season. Most were a little overwhelmed by all the attention paid to them that day. As Ducks staff members walked with them through the store and helped them pick out clothes to try on, these kids often went straight for the basics – sweatshirts, pants, socks, shoes – everyday clothing needs that will help fill their closets and relieve a bit of the financial pressure at home.

As they “modeled” their selections, which included plaid button-down shirts, Hello Kitty t-shirts and One Direction pajamas, I could see some sheepish smiles emerge. And many of the kids added gifts to their carts that will be under the tree next week for their siblings.

“I love to dance and learn new things,” said nine-year old Daniela about participating in the programs at The Wooden Floor.

“It’s like home to me,” added 13-year old Hugo.

As much as I am a sports fan, I’m also a big believer in the arts and the positive change participating in programs like these can have on young lives. I spent my younger days in dance, and now my two daughters do the same. There is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes from performing on stage in front of your family and friends. The Wooden Floor provides these kids with that experience, and with that, a path out of the poverty that is their “normal”, showing them that they can have a brighter future.

Supporters of The Wooden Floor since 2006, the Ducks provided an unforgettable Christmas for these special kids that will no doubt impact them for years to come.




I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Ducks organization for these activities, and at a time when our nation is filled with heavy hearts, it felt good to be a part of some acts of kindness that brought smiles to the faces of some local kids.

As they continue to bury their loved ones this week in Newtown, CT, I find it hard, like most, to process the unimaginable grief that those families must be facing.

I don’t have any connection to those lost. But I am a mother. A mother to two daughters, including a six-year old 1st grader. And while everyone grieves in his or her own way, I’m finding that focusing on giving—these acts of love and kindness—are a good way to honor those sweet children and selfless educators that we’ve lost.

May we all find ways to give of ourselves, not only during the holidays, but all year long. There are so many out there who could use a giving heart.

And may your holiday season be filled with joy, hope and love, for even when it seems the darkest, love never fails.


For more on CHOC Children’s and The Wooden Floor and the great ways they serve the kids in our community, visit and

**Group photo at Wal-Mart courtesy of Edie Layland

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