Adorned in the same jerseys they wear on the ice, Movember mustaches curling above their upper lip and wearing Santa hats, Syracuse Crunch players pushed shopping carts alongside Hillside Family of Agencies children on Tuesday.
The players and kids worked their way around TJ Maxx in Destiny USA, finding gifts to support Hillside Special Santas. The kids eyes lit up not only by seeing their favorite Crunch players up close, but also because of the enjoyable task of holiday shopping.
"Just being able to see her face light up at really anything she sees," Crunch forward Tanner Richard said about one of the children. "She's just like, 'cool look at that' and it's just kind of refreshing because sometimes you take things for granted, so seeing them light it up it puts a smile on my face too."
Richard, an admittedly adimant shopper, says while he enjoys shopping on a regular basis, and has a "eye" for it, he never knew there could be so much positive to buying things, especially when it comes to buying them for a good cause and alongside a child.
"The kids love this event," John Prior, Hillside Family Agencies Regional Director of Marketing and Relationship management, says. "This event in particular has been fantastic for us the last couple of years. Kids walk around with Crunch players and shop for gifts so they love it and of course it goes to the greater good."
All day long, the Crunch and the kids went back and forth, bouncing ideas off each other, trying to find the best gifts for their wish list. Defenseman J.P. Cote, said he needs help at times when it comes to buying something like a pair of jeans, so he used the help of one of the Hillside kids to shop on Tuesday.
"It's nice, you can tell that they put their heart into it," he says. "It's fun to give, it's fun to shop for yourself sometimes but it's also nice to shop for others and I think Anthony, my buddy here, had a lot of fun...there was a couple of things I thought of buying myself that he picked too. "
The Special Santas program provides about 1,000 kids with gifts each Christmas, with the Crunch also encouraging fans to pitch in and donate gifts at the War Memorial on November 23. The company Unilever also pitches in, making a product donation of their own of the wish gift list items.
Items on Hillside Family of Agencies gift wish list include: hooded/logo sweatshirts, sports balls, jewelry, sport watches, duffle bags, drawstring bags, sports bags and purses, cologne, body sprays and body kits for teenage girls and guys, lotion, make-up and hair supplies and MP3 players under $25. All gifts should be new and unwrapped.