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Youth hockey team practices the true meaning of Christmas

The Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association PeeWee II team members posed for a picture with Marine Corporal Benjamin Rand and Private Aaron Thibeault during their Toys for Tots Foundation Christmas party at the Laconia Ice Arena on Sunday. Participants included Jordan Audet, James Buckley, Jacob Cox, Colin Dexter, Michael Hering, Tyler LeBlanc, Brennan Malone, Riley Nichols, Danil Noordergraaf, Bert Prince, Owen Ramsey, Wyatt Saylor, Joshua Shevlin, and Noah Wirth, along with coaches Bill Dexter and Jim Shevlin. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
December 22, 2010
The Lakes Region Youth Hockey PeeWee II team realized the true meaning of Christmas during a party that celebrated helping those in need.

Young members of the team from all over the Lakes Region including Northfield, Tilton, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith and Center Harbor, came together after their game on Sunday to celebrate the holiday season the right way.

During their annual Christmas party at the Laconia Ice Arena, players and their parents enjoyed some homemade grub and admired two large bags filled with collected toys, donated by friends and the community, for the Marine's Toys for Tots Foundation.

The kids were aided by local Marines who spoke with them during their party and had even watched the hockey game.

Private Aaron Thibeault, originally of Chichester, and Corporal Benjamin Rand, originally of Tilton, devoted their weekend to spending time with young hockey players and their families. After the party, they planned to transport the toy donations to the Concord recruiting station, where they are temporarily staying while "home for the holidays."

The toys will then be delivered to the Londonderry headquarters for Toys for Tots.

Rand said when he heard about the youth hockey teams efforts to collect toys for the Toys for Tots donations this holiday season, rather than receiving gifts themselves at the party, he was inspired to volunteer for the day as well.

Both Marines recently attended a basketball game at Winnisquam Regional and took a photograph with the team. They also plan to come back to the Laconia Ice Arena to spend time with another hockey team this week.

Rand said he and Thibeault wanted to take advantage of the holiday season and devote their time to good causes, and watching others give back to foundations such as Toys for Tots has been inspirational.

Team manager Kerri Dexter said she was delighted to have the Marines on board and grateful that both volunteered to come by and help with the toy drive.

When Dexter heard that Toys for Tots was still in great need of donations this year, she knew her young players would step up and help. She said the two bags full of donations collected and given by the team include toys for boys and girls of various ages.

"This is the first time we are trying Toys for Tots, and donations will go down to Londonderry and distributed throughout New Hampshire," said Dexter. "We heard on the news and the radio that this foundation is in even greater need this year for donations due to the economy and hard times."

She said while the collection headquarters is usually full, sadly that was not the case this year and team members wanted to help out.

"Last year we gave to the local Salvation Army. I have been the team manager for the past three years and we have tried to keep the Christmas party to making donations rather than receiving presents," said Dexter.

Youth players Jordan Audet and Josh Shevlin both agreed that annual Christmas parties such as these have helped them realize that giving to people in need can be more satisfying then receiving presents. The boys said they have also realized that not all of their peers are as fortunate as they are, and giving back helps them feel good during the holiday season.

"The kids have all made an effort and some even said they wished they could donate some of their new stuff or their own presents this year too," said Dexter. "They get what's going on in this world and its needs right now. If they were able, they would have given more than two bags."

Dexter said she was impressed by the kids and their Christmas spirit and noted that while they are used to receiving their own presents this time of year, the kids realized the party was not all about them.

To continue on three years of tradition, Dexter said she would like to start making donations to a charitable organization early on next year in order to create a bigger turnout, perhaps through the league and not only through one team.

Along with the team manager and other parents, the head coach Bill Dexter and assistant coach Jim Shevlin also helped out at the event.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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