Women’s Lacrosse Team Spreads Christmas Magic for Long Island Youths
Santa's Helpers Brighten Holiday for 31 Children
Center Moriches, N.Y. - The newly formed St. Joseph's College women's lacrosse team celebrated Christmas early last night, with a huge celebration as part of the Christmas Magic program, servicing underprivileged children and their families on Long Island.
Early Thanksgiving week, each member of the inaugural lacrosse team selected one or two letters to Santa Claus written by a young child. The player then became "Santa's Helpers" and went shopping for the gifts the children were hoping for. The day before the Christmas party, the team gathered for a luncheon and "wrapping party" at the John A. Danzi Athletic Center. All the gifts were carefully put into 31 different gift bags, each with the child's name, including one specially labeled for Santa to open. Following the luncheon the presents were loaded into vans and brought the next morning to Clayton-Huey Elementary School in Center Moriches, where the Christmas Magic party was held that evening.
The children and their families arrived at the auditorium of Clayton-Huey, where they also participate in an after-school program run by Helen Fechter, the Coordinator of Early Childhood Services for the Center Moriches School District. Pizzas, desserts, and drinks were available as the families settled in for a wonderful evening of surprises. With Christmas music playing in a beautifully decorated setting, Santa Claus arrived promptly at 5 p.m. He took a jolly stroll through the room, chatting with some of the young children, and then headed up on the stage.
As he walked onto the stage, the curtains flew open, and revealed the St. Joseph's Golden Eagle lacrosse team outfitted in colorful Christmas attire and surrounded by over one hundred presents. The team burst into song, singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as the faces of the children in the audience were stunned and amazed at the incredible transformation of the stage into a Christmas holiday scene.
One-by-one the children's names were called and they walked up on stage with their parents, greeted by a St. Joseph's player who gave them their bag of gifts and escorted them to Santa, where together they opened up one special present. The children were overcome with joy and happiness as they opened up their very own Christmas presents. Once they opened up their present, the lacrosse player brought them down the steps on the far end of the stage, and walked with them back to their seats where they spent some time with the child. The visits to Santa were continuous until all 31 children received their gifts.
The parents of the youngsters were totally overwhelmed by the generosity of the Golden Eagles team and they were in awe as their children received a bag full of gifts, some of which would be opened at their homes on Christmas morning. The smiles on their children's faces truly told the whole story of the spirit of the season.
Throughout the evening, it was sometimes hard to tell who was more excited - the youngsters receiving and opening gifts or the St. Joseph's women who were elated to see the look of joy on a child's face.
For the women's lacrosse team, the event was special in many ways. For the first time since the start of the program, there were 22 players and coaches all together - the largest gathering ever. This was their first true team community service experience as the young program begins to find its identity before they find their way to the field for the first time this February.
The generosity and largesse of each member of the team was a true joy to see - their ability to come together, to work together, to share a wonderful evening together, and to give back to the community together, all spoke volumes for their future outlook as a team on the lacrosse field.
First year head coach Bob Vlahakis had this to say about the team's efforts. "I am so proud of each and every single member of our women's lacrosse team. The program has been coming together on a steady pace since last February and their ability to focus and do well in school, to give unselfishly of themselves, and to accept, trust and work with others is unbelievable. This is the epitome of the Division III athlete, to be able to balance all areas of life - academically, socially, athletically, and expand themselves as individuals while doing so. As a new program starting from scratch, we are trying to create and define a unique culture for our lacrosse program - one which blends in hands on community service projects as a staple of who we are. I think that the energy created from ventures like this will carry over onto the lacrosse field and bond us together in a very special way."
It was a night to remember and the first tradition for the team has etched its place in stone. Already there is talk of what to do for next year's Christmas Magic!
Christmas Magic is a non-profit organization based out of Hauppauge, N.Y. whose mission is to collect toys, gifts and donations and provide them to Long Island's underprivileged children and their families giving them hope and brighter holidays since 1985.
Christmas Magic has had a large increase in the number of children it helps each year. If you are interested in contributing in any way, please contact Elysse at 631-265-7200.