Boston Bruins players pushed carriages up and down the aisles at the Saugus Walmart Friday in search of the perfect gifts for hospitalized children.
Each the year the entire Boston Bruins roster participates in a holiday toy shopping event to benefit kids in hospitals who are unable to celebrate the holidays at home.
This marked the second consecutive year the Bruins chose the Saugus Walmart to purchase presents for youths. Players wore their jerseys — and Santa hats — as Walmart associates helped them pick out items for children of all ages.
All of the gifts were purchased using donations from players and the Boston Bruins Foundation. After practice next Wednesday, the players will deliver the presents to more than 600 children spread between seven different hospitals in the Boston area.
The holiday toy shopping tradition was started by former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque. Center Patrice Bergeron has spearheaded the effort for the last nine years.
“It’s important to get involved in the community and to do something to help these kids,” Bergeron said.
For Bergeron, the best part of the tradition is when he hands the gifts to children in the hospital. He will be visiting Franciscan Children’s next week with teammates.
“It’s one thing to grab presents at a store, but it’s a really cool moment when you give them to the kids and see a smile on their face.”
David Backes enlisted his 3 ½-year-old daughter Stella to help him choose toys for kids. Backes kept a running tally of the gifts with each item that ended up in the carriage.
“We’re really doing some damage,” Backes said.
Backes told the Advertiser he brought Stella to help teach her the importance of giving back to others.
Stalwart defenseman Zdeno Chara focused on securing baby clothes while shopping at Walmart. He quickly loaded his shopping cart with outfits for infants, toddlers and elementary school age kids.
Chara said he looks forward to participating in the holiday toy shopping event this time each year. The reaction from the youths when they receive the gifts is what really stands out, he noted.
“You realize how much something like getting a present means to kids,” Chara said.
Winger David Pastrnak found enough Nerf guns, Hot Wheels, dolls and other toys to fill up two shopping carriages.
Over the course of 90 minutes at Walmart the Bruins posed for photos with shoppers who were surprised to bump into the players.
A sea of black and gold occupied the checkout lines as the Bruins waited to pay for the gifts at the register before they were loaded into boxes to be delivered to hospitals.
Star winger Brad Marchand said he and his teammates have a lot of fun shopping together for the kids.
“This is an event we always look forward to, it’s a great opportunity to get out as a group and as a family to do something pretty special,” Marchand said.