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Little Squirts give back this holiday season

Youth Lakes Region hockey players from the Lakers Squirt 1 team donate toys to the Salvation Army in Laconia in lieu of exchanging gifts. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
December 16, 2009
LAKES REGION — Youth Lakes Region hockey players from the Lakers Squirt 1 team have decided to forgo their own Yankee swap this year, and instead donate toys to the Salvation Army in Laconia for children in greater need.

Squirts Team Manager Kerri Dexter said this was the team's first holiday season together since their season started in October, and the players, ages 9 to 10 years old, had to decide what how they wanted to celebrate their Christmas party.

"This year the team decided they wanted to give back to those less fortunate in the community this Christmas season instead of swapping gifts with one another," said Dexter. "We were in the locker room talking about Christmas parties and ideas were thrown around."

The team decided they didn't want to do something typical this year and settle for something such as Secret Santa, said Dexter. She said the idea for Toys for Tots was thrown around, where they could donate presents to children in need this holiday season, and the kids started to get excited.

"We decided to give back to the community. The kids were all for it. Once we did this, we had to decide where to give back," said Dexter. "We just happened to have a parent who volunteers for the Salvation Army."

Lisa and Paul Buckley of Gilford volunteer at the Salvation Army in Laconia on a weekly basis, said Dexter. She explained that the Salvation Army currently has a list of less fortunate families this season that Squirt toys will be donated to. She said that each member of the team went on a shopping trip with their parents and purchased a toy or two for a variety of ages, including board games, stuffed animals, and hats.

"These are good life lessons for them, especially in today's economy and today's world. I think the kids realized how fortunate they were," said Dexter.

Dexter said that all 16 teammates felt good about what they did after they sorted out the 24 different toys they helped bring to the table at the Laconia Ice Rink last Sunday for their Christmas party. Although the players didn't receive presents, they did have a pizza party and a lot of satisfaction from their good deed.

"Some older kids had done some charitable things, but this was a first experience with younger kids. They were wondering where the gifts were going," said Dexter. "One child said he wished he could see their faces when they opened the presents. They all had smiles on their faces."

Dexter said it was nice to hear the children converse like this as they browsed over all the presents they made sure to keep unwrapped at the table. All 24 presents were donated to the Salvation Army last Sunday, and should be delivered just in time for the holidays. That morning, the Lakers Squirt team had also played a hockey game and afterwards, donated 45 minutes of their time to the Learn to Skate Program at the rink for 3 to 9 year olds. They helped out 33 new skaters, said Dexter, who was extra pleased to see this act done without any nudging from the parents.

"This team is very in tune with helping others. We are very fortunate to have such a great group of kids. We are proud of them. I think this will be a new tradition with the kids," said Dexter.

She added that the Lakers Squirt team has received some other great news. Out of 373 teams from throughout New England who registered in an online voting contest, the Lakers were one of the chosen top 20 teams to win tickets to the Winter Classic Hockey Game on Jan 1. Only two teams from New Hampshire were chosen, said Dexter, who found support from the community to be tremendous.

The Lakers Squirt team will also have a tournament coming up in February, and perhaps a tournament in March, which will wrap up their seven-month season.

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