A local nonprofit organization is getting some help this holiday season from Bay area youth hockey players, and the timing couldn't be better.
"I was overwhelmed with joy! I really cried when (the organizer) called because it's just the help we needed at this time in this economy," Operation Unwrap a Smile co-founder Stephanie Roshell said.
Roshell and her husband, Herbert, run the nonprofit organization Operation Unwrap a Smile from their Land O' Lakes home, relying on donations and their own funds to reach displaced, homeless and at-risk youth in Pasco County and beyond.
The organization also provides outreach services to local nursing homes, giving residents basic toiletries and gifts, and taking kids along to sing and share their company.
The hockey player outreach to support their efforts in the Bay area was organized by Deano Hoffberg, the mother of two Jr. Bull youth hockey players, a travel team based at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, 10222 Elizabeth Place.
Hoffberg launched "Youth Hockey Cares" in 2011 to encourage the youth hockey community to support local organizations. Last year she organized a player-led toy drive for All Children's Hospital.
"I always wanted to do this," Hoffberg said. It started with wanting her own two sons to realize how much of an advantage they have, and how important it is to give back.
"Other people don't have the luxuries we have," she said.
This year, players from all age levels of the Jr. Bulls organization are getting involved by bringing in toys, basic toiletries and gift cards for Operation Unwrap a Smile. And Hoffberg is working to get other Bay area hockey organizations involved, as well, she said.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Operation Unwrap a Smile "is simply about bringing hope and love through a smile. A gift from us is a token of love to show them they are not forgotten," Roshell said.
The community is welcome and encouraged to support the young hockey players' efforts, Hoffberg said. A donation box is set up at the Ice Sports Forum. There also will be a collection at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, 5309 29th Street East in Ellenton, on Dec. 8 and 9, she said.
New toys, blankets, toiletries and gift cards are needed, as well as scrapbooking materials, craft supplies puzzles and games.
"Stuff that we take for granted," Hoffberg said.
The organization does a lot of crafts with children at local detention facilities, so supplies for those activities always are in demand, Roshell said.
If you would like to help, call 813-748-4775. For more information, you also can visit Operation Unwrap A Smile's website.
Changing Lives One Smile at a Time