Raptors Team Up With Holiday Helpers For Annual Holiday Party

By Melissa Perri - Raptors.com

On Sunday, December 7th, the tinsel was hung and the tree was lit inside Air Canada Club as the Toronto Raptors hosted a group of special guests at the team’s annual Holiday Party. This festive occasion brought together Raptors players, coaches, management and over a dozen underprivileged families for an afternoon of good food and joy.

To make this day a success, the Raptors partnered with Holiday Helpers, a non-profit organization that focuses on granting Christmas wishes of low-income families in Toronto and the surrounding area by providing personalized packages. Members of the Raptors organization were each matched with a family to spend the afternoon together.

“This is great for our players to be with families that are not as fortunate,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “We all have come from different backgrounds and can relate to them and I think it’s a great, humbling experience for our players to spend the holidays with these families who are less fortunate.”

Two young sisters patiently waited in beautiful, red dresses with their mother at a table with a Landry Fields place card. Once the Raptors forward approached the family, it wasn’t long before the girls, smiling and laughing, ran to the cookie-decorating table with him.

“The chance for the Raptors and the whole organization to get together and honour these families is something that’s near and dear to our hearts. My family has been great. This woman has beautiful children full of energy and just to get them out here and spend some time with them has been great, not only for them, but for me as well,” said Fields. “Just to see everything that they have been going through and hear their story is really touching. It’s really beautiful,” said Fields.

Over a hearty meal complete with turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, the players, coaches and staff shared stories with the families, learning about their experiences and difficult times, especially around this time of year.

“I heard some of the trying times for a family; getting things together for Christmas, trying to provide for Christmas, what the kids wanted and didn’t know if Santa could find their house, just things like that touch your heart,” said Casey. “What we can do to contribute to that is very important.”

On a day free from practice, the players were happy to attend the event to give back to the community. When asked about the importance of participating in the annual Holiday Party, Raptors forward Patrick Patterson reflected on family values and being away from home during the season.

“My family is so far away that I’m typically alone during this time. It means a lot because I’m around people who care a lot about their families – fathers, mothers, children – they all have that family environment,” said Patterson. “To be able to share this Christmas-time experience with them and have them welcome me into their family and just my ability to put a smile on their face means a lot to me.”

When the cookies were eaten, the decorations were taken down and the guests went on their way, Air Canada Club went back to its usual dining room atmosphere. But for the Raptors, it was a fulfilling afternoon, and for all, an unforgettable holiday experience and hope for a better future.