West Hartford's St. Peter Claver Church has been helping families throughout the area with a Christmas food basket program for over 40 years, and for the past two years the Conard Boys Ice Hockey Team has made a huge impact in the program's success.
For second consecutive year, the team has volunteered in force to help deliver the baskets. "The hockey team was great. They came in, swooshed through the line picking up baskets, delivered them, and came back for more," said Beth Ryan, who has organized the program for the past 10 years.
Ryan said that the food basket program is "a gift given freely from one family to another." Parishioners – 300 of them this year – chip in and create complete Christmas baskets for other area families. This year, St. Peter Claver filled 145 baskets.
"It's mostly families impacted by cancer or catastrophic illness," she said. Ryan said she works with social workers at area hospitals to identify the families.
The baskets contain all of the food needed for a Christmas celebration, and some also include small gifts for young children and gift cards.
"Last year, Mary Kycia asked if the hockey team could help. They really saved us that year," Ryan said, because the church did not have enough people signed up to make the deliveries. Kycia, a parishioner, has a son who plays hockey at Conard.
Ryan said Kycia approached her about doing it again this year, and the team was very enthusiastic to participate again. In fact, first-year coach Greg Raymer had done the same thing back when he played hockey at Conard.
"They made a huge impact. They were a great help and got the baskets out in record time," Ryan said.