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Belleville Sens giving back to the community this holiday season

December 19, 2022

Enjoying a rare break in their busy schedule, the Belleville Senators took the chance to help deliver a brighter holiday to those that might not otherwise have many opportunities to celebrate.

Their latest community initiative took them to the Three Oaks Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with charitable status that provides various support services for women and their children who have experienced domestic violence.

The players and coaches made a substantial personal donation to ensure that the women and children of Three Oaks could enjoy meaningful presents. Amy Dufresne, Manager, Community Services at Three Oaks Foundation, was impressed by the Senators’ efforts.

“[Head Coach] Troy [Mann] and his wife Lori were super great. She was super accommodating when we talked to her. We kind of just said to her that this is what we do, and she ran with it. I think that it speaks volumes when you’re able to, as a shelter in a small community, say we have support not only from women but also from men and from a group of hockey players. We need more allies, and those allies need to be male. So that’s a huge impact for the agency.”

“This is going to help us to be able to provide Christmas gifts to women and children who might not have gotten anything. So often, when we have kids come to the shelter over holidays, they’re really concerned about whether or not Santa Claus is going to be able to be here. So us being able to provide women with gifts they can put underneath the tree for Christmas morning, Santa still exists. No one wants to be in a shelter over Christmas. So if they have to be, we try to make it as enjoyable as possible. Having support from the community and organizations like the Senators is enormous for us. Because if not, we wouldn’t be able to provide those things to women and children.”

Like all the players who participated, forward Brennan Saulnier felt the positive emotional impact of the visit and also credited his coach for the culture he has built both with the team and in the community.

“He’s the leader of that group, and seeing him come to this kind of stuff just emphasizes how important it really is,” Saulnier said. “The community really supports us. I think it’s super important to give back when you can. It’s special to see the kids and their reactions when we come in. The month of December is special with the holidays and Christmas, just getting out there and seeing people. I think they enjoy it when we show our faces and they’re at our games. So it’s good to come and see them in person and just show them, you know, we’re people too and give back.”

In addition to the thoughtful gifts, there was also an opportunity to interact and receive autographs from professional hockey players in a safe and festive environment.

“The idea of being able to meet one of your heroes is a huge thing, Amy said. Most people don’t get to do that. For kids, it’s a huge impact when they’re able to meet their hero and have that five minutes. When you come from a small community that doesn’t have what we see on TV, it’s hard to figure out whether or not you can obtain those goals. But seeing them in live action provides a lot of hope for kids that maybe they can be there someday. So I think that’s important that we have that in this community. I think it’s even more important because they don’t just come here to play hockey. They come here also to help the community. That’s a big piece.”

The support of the Bay of Quinte region allows the Senators to pursue their hockey careers. Making Christmas brighter for women and children in challenging circumstances is just one thing the organization can do to help contribute in return.