Warming hearts with toys on ice

TIMMINS – Stuffed animals tossed onto the ice at the McIntyre Arena will warm children’s hearts across the Northeast.

The donations from the third-annual Teddy Bear Toss during a Timmins Rock game on Dec. 5 were gathered up and brought to Northeastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services (NEOFACS) on Friday.

By Emma Meldrum

The teddy bears, big and small, were piled high by Rock players in front of a Christmas tree. Defenceman Grant McClellan said when affiliate player Riley Brousseau scored the first and only Rock goal in the second period, the players hopped off the bench.

Fans threw their bear donations on the ice, and the game was paused to allow for clean-up.

“We basically cleared our bench,” he said. “All the players got out there, sliding them into one corner, keeping it easy for all the helping hands trying to clear the ice. It was a team effort.”

McClellan said helping out the community shows the hockey players care.

“It gets our face out there. It shows that we’re multi-dimensional, we’re not just hockey players,” he said. “We like to go out and help people.”

The people in question are families receiving services from NEOFACS in Timmins, Iroquois Falls and Matheson, as well as community members who’ve said they could use help at Christmas time.

Brooke Ballantyne, communications coordinator for NEOFACS, said the organization offers teddy bears to a partner across the road and another across town.

“We also share some of the teddy bears and the donations with the Cochrane District EMS and the Timmins Hospital emergency room,” explained Ballantyne. “Anybody coming in over Christmastime who’s got a bit of an emergency situation, they can have a little friend as well.”

Ballantyne said the number of donations is on par with previous years.

“I heard they took a little while to score their first goal and people were getting pretty anxious to toss the bears,” she said. “I do notice quite a few larger bears this year, which is awesome, and of course we see lots of the little Rock teddy bears which is pretty cool.”

Ballantyne said the stuffed animals provide comfort to kids.

“It lets them know somebody is thinking about them, and it becomes their special little buddy and their playmate,” she said.

That’s something McClellan can relate to.

“I hope doing (this) impacts some kid. I’m sure it will. I’m just real glad that we were able to do it.”

The stuffed animal donations are part of the Christmas Angel Campaign, which seeks to fulfill Christmas wish lists from children, youth and families in need of help over the holidays.