James van Riemsdyk never thought he’d be an expert at picking out toys for a little girl, but when he went shopping for the Flyers’ holiday toy drive, he knew just which doll to get.
“The same baby doll that my daughter loves is the one that I ended up donating,” van Riemsdyk said. “If she likes it, maybe someone else will, too.”
Together with Flyers fans and the Flyers Alumni, each Flyers player and his family chose toys for the holiday Toy Drive, organized by Flyers Charities and the Flyers’ community relations department. Defenseman Nick Seeler said it reminded him of the giving tree his church in Minnesota has where each person took a ticket with an age range or description of a child on it.
Seeler doesn’t have kids and his niece is too young for the age group he selected, so he went with his gut and chose a sports set. Kevin Hayes brought a “Frozen” Olaf toy, Travis Sanheim brought a Lego set, Travis Konecny brought a toy tool belt, and Keith Yandle brought a set of Team USA dolls to the toy drive.
It’s always good to give back, Seeler said, and the toy drive was a fun outlet to do so.
Becoming a father has “definitely” changed van Riemsdyk’s perspective on the drive. He said the fact that Philadelphia is such a passionate sports city makes it even more important that the team helps out in the community.
“You don’t want to ever see a kid not have something for Christmas or whatever under their tree,” van Riemsdyk said. “So if you can bring a little joy to a child with that, with a certain gift, definitely being a dad now, that’s changed my perspective on that even more.”
The toy drive was supposed to last through the Flyers’ December home games, but it was cut short when the NHL paused the season from Dec. 22-25. The Flyers still had one home game — against the Washington Capitals — before the cutoff, but the game was postponed the day of.
By the time the game was paused, Wells Fargo Center employees had already arrived and started preparing for the event. But no game meant no fans to eat the food that had already been delivered. Rather than let it go to waste, the Wells Fargo Center and its concessionaire Aramark donated all of its cold food items to Philabundance.
“We have a terrific relationship with Philabundance and regularly provide donations and participate in service work with their team,” said Phil Laws, senior vice president and general manager of Wells Fargo Center. “This was a unique situation this week with the postponement, and we were able to donate items like salads, hoagies, pretzels, and more. It’s great knowing that food went to families in need, especially around the holidays.”
The toys were picked up Tuesday and were to be distributed before Christmas. And the Flyers’ giving initiatives aren’t stopping with the Christmas holiday. The new year comes with new resolutions, but it also brings in the cold weather, so the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers will hold a collection for winter hats, coats, gloves, and scarves. They are coordinating the event with the Diversified Community Services to keep local youths and their families warm.
“The city always has our back and is cheering us on and really supportive of us,” van Riemsdyk said. “So the least we can do is try to get involved with stuff like this, try to give back and be involved.”