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Amerks spread holiday cheer

by Patrick Jennings || AHL On The Beat Archive 

The holidays are a time where giving is probably the single most important gift you can give anyone, no matter what the price tag says.

A common misconception around Christmastime is that in order to make someone happy you must open up your wallet because you know the monetary value that comes with it. In all actuality, however, many fail to realize that happiness can be easily achieved through a simple gesture of good will from a warm heart and a gift as intangible as a smile can have just the same affect and go a long way.

That is the kind of gift the Rochester Americans are providing this holiday season.

After morning practice was finished on Dec. 16, instead of returning to his apartment to put his feet up the rest of the day, Amerks defenseman Paul Baier threw his philanthropic hat on and played Santa Claus for the afternoon.

In similar fashion to the iconic symbol of Christmas, Baier, sporting his Amerks jersey and a full-size bag of presents over his right shoulder, went and delivered toys to the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. He added in a little hockey twist from the normal Santa Claus, but he fit right in with the children making this holiday one they would never forget.

Baier and other Amerks players purchased the toys in association with the Hockey Players For Kids organization (hp4k.org).

“I thought it was a great initiative,” Baier said. “(Ryan) Del Monte just took the reins and had all the guys get presents. I feel bad that he didn’t get to see it through.”

Del Monte and Matt Pierce spearheaded the effort in the Amerks dressing room after they were promoted to Rochester from Cincinnati of the ECHL. The pair of forwards were part of a similar toy drive with the Cyclones the past couple years.

Del Monte and Pierce had heard of the idea from Dustin Sproat, their teammate in Cincinnati, who founded the organization a few years back. Sproat’s mission was simple – to reach out to the less fortunate by giving them delight over the holidays. He wanted his teammates, no matter where they were playing, to interact with the community and teach them about hockey, while being positive influences.

Del Monte and Pierce wanted to continue the tradition that they had been a part of back in Cincinnati. The two teammates thought it would only be right to find an organization where they could instill the holiday spirit to young boys and girls.

“Being able to give back to kids who are less fortunate and teach them a little about hockey goes along way,” said Del Monte. “It feels amazing to see the children’s faces light up with joy and smiles when they open the presents.”

Except Del Monte and Pierce unfortunately never got to experience it. Before nearly completing the toy campaign, the pair was reassigned back to Cincinnati just days prior to the scheduled date of delivery. Thus, Baier took over the duties and became the “Captain” of delivering the toys. He was all for it and wanted to make sure that the toys would still reach the children.

“Any way we can help out,” said Baier on taking over the program. “Being in our position, you want to be able to give back and that’s what we accomplished. We just wanted to give them a nice Christmas and show them that we care.”

With Del Monte and Piece being call-ups from Cincinnati and not regulars in Rochester, it shows a lot of character about the two wanting to be so involved. They both wanted to give back to a community that they had only been a part of for a short period of time. Their enthusiasm to help out children and make sure that their holidays are filled with gifts and happiness are the type of stories people want to hear about. They recruited players from the team to jump on board and help out with buying presents.

Despite leaving for Cincinnati, they will have left Rochester with an impressive mark for people to remember in the hopes that this Christmas is the best one yet.

See, the best gifts are those that money can’t buy.