Youth hockey team creates Christmas magic

Players and parents unite to help unfortunate boy

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  • His benefactors learned that the boy is a fan of New York sports teams

  • 15 members of the hockey team; 15 families contributed to the effort

By Laurie Gordon

— It is said that it takes a community to raise a child. In this case, it's an ice hockey team giving a Sussex County boy who is in a group home a special Christmas.

The Skylands Kings PeeWee Gold Team practices and plays at Skylands Stadium in Stockholm, and one of the team moms, Kristin McCabe, from the Stanhope/Byram area, has a friend who was gathering names of wards of the state who needed holiday gifts.

Her list included over 80 children.

Number 19 on the list was a 13-year-old boy whose name must remain anonymous because of the abuse he underwent. He is from Sussex County and has been placed in a group home in South Jersey.

“This particular child loves sports,” McCabe said, “So my friend thought of me to help get him some Christmas presents since my son, 11-year-old Brennan, is involved in hockey, golf and baseball.”

It turns out, the child's list was pretty extensive and was, indeed, all about sports. The McCabes wanted to help him as much as they could, so Kristin McCabe reached out to her son's hockey team.

“There are 15 players on the hockey team and all 15 families were eager to help,” McCabe said.

She ascertained what sports teams the child liked, and the Skylands Kings gathered all sorts of clothes, sporting items to make his room at the group home seem more like home. They even included a Nintendo for the lad.

“The outpouring from the hockey families is just tremendous,” McCabe said, “And we are so glad to not only be helping this boy, but it's also been a real eye-opener to my son and to the other boys on the team that there are kids out there without a family or place to call home.”

Brennan McCabe was so touched by the story that he wanted to invite the boy to their home. At this point in time that invitation, as well as Kristin McCabe's offer to take the boy to a sporting event, cannot be accepted. The boy is yet not considered stable enough, due to what he has gone through. The generous offers remain on the table for a future date.

The next step will be for the items the Kings gathered to be placed in a “Santa Sack” with this little boy's number on it. It will then be delivered to him at his group home for Christmas. “This was an amazing team effort, but there is more to do,” McCabe said.

The experience prompted her to research wards of the state in New Jersey and she learned that by the end of 2016, there were over 437,000 children in foster care across the country. She learned more.

“It's very difficult to find homes for children over the age of six and a huge need for families to foster older kids and sibling groups,” she said. “This little boy is in a group home where all of his basic needs are met, but it's not a foster home. If this article can send one message, it's that there is a huge need for people to foster these children.”

The Skylands Kings keep a very demanding practice and game schedule, skating late into the night and balancing homework on top of it. Their families are equally committed to the sport, and for all, teamwork and dedication are key. To this end, the team has the best record in the New Jersey Youth Hockey League North Division. But the teamwork among these kids and parents runs far deeper than a record. For a little boy from Sussex County who underwent something horrific and is now a ward of the state, this team unified off of the ice to make his Christmas something special.

If you or someone you know are interested in learning about fostering a child, foster parents — especially for children over the age of six and for sibling fostering — are very badly needed. Please call Elizabeth Nuss 973-383-8400 at extension 305 for further information.
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