“Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices.” — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The Tri-City Americans have been putting their best foot forward this holiday season, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, holding their annual Teddy Bear Toss night, and collecting food for local food banks.
It’s all part of giving back to the community that has supported the hockey team for the past 25 years.
“It’s very important,” Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said of the team’s community involvement. “It’s something I have stressed since I arrived here. The guys all come from different places and it’s important that we put our imprint on the community that supports us.
“I think our hockey club is an ambassador for the community and an importance of that is taking on these endeavors. In the end, they enjoy it and they get much more back from it than they give.”
Thursday morning, 12 players were out in full force ringing bells for the Salvation Army at the three area Walmart stores.
Defenseman Wil Tomchuk and forward Lukas Walter were manning a red kettle at the Kennewick Walmart.
“We’ve got lots of money today,” said Tomchuk, as his hour was winding down to the final minutes. “We probably have $130 or so. We had a couple of people put in twenties.”
Walter thanked a couple of donors and wished them a “Merry Christmas” before chiming in.
“I really like this,” he said. “It helps a lot of people. It’s not too bad being out here for an hour.”
Tomchuk and Walter have volunteered many hours this season, working with youth hockey players, building houses and delivering meals. Other players have visited patients at area hospitals, read to elementary school students and worked with animals at the Benton-Franklin Humane Society.
“Meals on Wheels is my favorite,” Walter said.
“Habitat for Humanity is mine,” Tomchuk said. “And working with the little kids in hockey.”
Also getting into the holiday cheer with the little red bells were Tyson Dallman and Ryan Chynoweth, who joined Walter and Tomchuk in Kennewick. Justin Feser, Mitch Topping, Connor Rankin and Phil Tot were in Richland, while Drydn Dow, Zach Yuen, Justin Hamonic and Jesse Mychan were in Pasco.
“Today was a little colder than it was last week when they were out, but it’s a small sacrifice,” Tory said. “Kathleen Adams coordinates our community programs and very seldom does she come back saying they were late or that they complained. They realize it is important to our program. I couldn’t be more grateful for their attitude.”
This year’s Teddy Bear Toss game Dec. 6 brought in 2,649 stuffed animals, and Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie has joined forces with Second Harvest for the Comrie Saves Hunger campaign. Comrie will donate 50 cents from his own pocket for each save at home, and the Americans will match his contributions. There also will be bins at each home game for food donations.
“I wanted to do something to help out the community,” Comrie said. “My mom (Roxanne) is big into giving to the food banks, donating blood and she does a lot of volunteer work. My whole family has been giving back and I wanted to continue that. I go home to a warm meal every night and others don’t have that privilege. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to give back.”
Second Harvest is happy to have Comrie on board.
“It’s exciting to see young people be involved,” said Deborah Bourque, the special events and volunteer coordinator for Second Harvest. “We had 200 pounds of food donated (Tuesday) that night.”
Not only do the players do their part in the community, but Americans mascot Winger gets into the action, as well.
Winger will be at Senske Lawn and Tree Care in Kennewick from 7-8 p.m. tonight. Senske’s lighting display set to music is a fundraiser for Second Harvest, and Winger will be there to greet guests and pose for photos.
Second Harvest collected $1,150 and more than 300 pounds of food last weekend. People who make a donation can go inside the main office and have their picture taken with Santa.
Donations will be accepted from 7-10 p.m. tonight and from 5-10 p.m. Saturday.