Last week the Anaheim Ducks participated in one of my favorite events that they do for our community—taking some of the awesome and talented kids from The Wooden Floor on a holiday shopping spree.
For the seventh year in a row, the Ducks have partnered with the Santa Ana-based after school dance program for an afternoon of shopping, where professional hockey players get to show these students the true meaning of the spirit of giving.
Corey Perry, Clayton Stoner and Francois Beauchemin, accompanied by Beauchemin’s wife, Marie, Ryan Kesler’s wife, Andrea, Mark Fistric’s wife, Geena, and Perry’s fiancée, Blakeny, hosted 10 students from The Wooden Floor as they pushed shopping carts all around Target in the Irvine Spectrum while the kids selected gifts for themselves and their families.
This was not just another shopping trip for these kids. Classified by HUD as extremely low-income, this was an experience of a lifetime, one that would be giving them a Christmas they otherwise would not have.
I spoke with single mother Martha Garcia, whose son, Martin Sapien, was among those chosen to attend the event.
She told me through tears how she has taken a leave of absence from work to go back to school to finish her masters degree. Because of this, she told her kids that Christmas might not be what they are used to.
“It was such a blessing when I got the phone call that my son was selected to go on the shopping spree,” said Martha. “I couldn’t wait to go run and tell him. I think it’s so great what the Ducks do to give back to the community.”
And Martin, who spent the afternoon shopping alongside Francois Beauchemin, had a fantastic time with his new hockey buddy.
“I think it’s awesome because I got to get a lot of stuff for me and my family,” said 12-year old Martin.
The defenseman was impressed with how Martin kept his family members in mind while he was shopping.
“I was with Martin today, and he picked out clothes for himself and then we went into the toys department, and he’s such a great kid, the first thing he thought about was finding things for his brother and sister,” said Beauchemin.
Clayton Stoner was paired up with Carlos Dominguez, and he helped the 12-year old pick out a new skateboard, pants, socks and jeans.
“I really appreciated Clayton helping me shop,” said Carlos.
Stoner returned the sentiment.
“It was super fun,” said Stoner. “Carlos and I bonded and it was fun to see how excited he was. He picked out a lot of stuff that he really needed. He’s going to have a great holiday, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The Wooden Floor has been helping to change lives in our community since 1983. Each year, the arts-based youth development program works with 375 low-income students and uses dance education and performance to break the cycle of poverty.
Additionally, the non-profit provides services to their students and families such as academic tutoring, college scholarships and family services, all with very tangible results.
Since 2005, 100 percent of The Wooden Floor’s graduates have finished high school on time and have immediately enrolled into college, compared to about 35 percent of their socioeconomic peers. Those are tremendous numbers.
“The Wooden Floor breaks the cycle of poverty through dance. It sounds outlandish, but it’s true and it’s amazing what we accomplish through our long-term dance program,” says the Director of Communications and Marketing at The Wooden Floor, Payal Kumar Avellan.
“We do serve a very low income population, so what the Ducks are doing here today is so amazing. Not only are they getting a Christmas, they’re also getting that mentorship, so they know that they are important. They know that they count.
After the shopping spree was finished, the fun continued for the kids with some time on the Irvine Spectrum ice rink with the pros. It was definitely a day these students will never forget.
“Just to be able to put confidence in them,” said Perry of the event. “That’s the biggest part. It will help them get to bigger and better things.”
I’m a big believer in the arts and the power they have to transform lives. So to see a program like The Wooden Floor promote dance in such an intentional way for these kids—and use it to help change their future—is something I can definitely support.
And to see my favorite hockey team support and value their efforts as well, and go so far as to make the holiday season memorable for these kids each year, that makes it even better.
Read here for more stories from the holiday shopping spree hosted by the Anaheim Ducks for The Wooden Floor.
For more information on The Wooden Floor and how they use dance performance and education to break the cycle of poverty, visit thewoodenfloor.org.