When Flyers forward Mike Knuble decided to support a struggling Camden toy drive, he made sure he wasn't going to do it shorthanded.

"You're going to give some money to this," he jokingly threatened fellow players. "You're on my list. I have a roster; I'm checking you off."

Thanks to Knuble's efforts, the Flyers yesterday delivered $8,000 worth of toys and clothes to the Camden Rescue Mission, bringing it to 60 percent of its goal of serving 7,000 children at a holiday party next Saturday.

"The Flyers put us back in the game," said the Rev. Al Stewart, mission pastor. "They lifted our spirits."

As of Thursday, mission volunteers had collected about 40 percent of the gifts needed.

"The economy has hit a lot families real hard," Stewart said. "We're getting calls from Atco, Haddonfield, Pennsauken, Gloucester City. These are communities that traditionally have given to us."

Knuble took up the mission's cause at the suggestion of a Comcast-Spectator Foundation representative, who read about it in The Inquirer on Nov. 4. Knuble collected monetary donations from players, coaches, his own family foundation, and the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation.

"We had 100 percent participation. It takes no time, and you're helping a lot of kids," he said.

On Wednesday, he led a Flyers' shopping crew to the Voorhees Target. Hitting the aisles with Knuble were his wife, Megan, and their three children, and defenseman Derian Hatcher, with his wife, Heather, and their five children, as well as community-relations staff members.

The group filled about 20 carts in 45 minutes with hats, gloves, dolls, balls, games, and, of course, hockey sticks. The Flyers' offspring proved knowledgable advisers, said team staffer Caitlin Emanuel.

"It was like we were on a game show," Knuble said. Target designated special checkout lanes and kept a running cost tally. Next time, he said, laughing, they would slow down a bit.

The store needed "general restocking" after the Flyers' spree, said manager Rob Everett, although Knuble said, "you couldn't even tell we'd been there."

"They bought toys, but a lot of basic goods, too - about a truckload," Everett said.

For the first time in Stewart's 20 years running the mission, children this year requested coats, gloves and blankets - a sign of the times, he said. But they all love receiving toys.

"We'll meet the need, and we'll deal with the wants," Stewart said.

The mission issues party tickets to families from November until Monday. On Saturday, children will choose one or two gifts from an array displayed at the specially decorated mission.

Until the party, the mission will reach out daily for the balance of donations needed and organize 60 to 80 volunteers to staff the party.

"Companies who spent $1,000 in the past could only give $200 this year," Stewart said. "So that's why when the Flyers came through, it really energized us. We know we can make it."

To Donate

Camden Rescue Mission, 1634 Broadway, will be open 24 hours a day through today to accept donations. For information, call 856-966-2495 or go to

» READ MORE: www.camdenrescuemission.org