Ice Hockey: Regis Jesuit’s annual Teddy Bear Toss biggest success yet

A Regis Jesuit ice hockey player skates back to the bench as stuffed animals rain down onto the ice Dec. 17 at the Family Sports Center for the Raiders’ fifth annual Teddy Bear Toss event. The team collected nearly 300 stuffed animals thrown onto the ice by fans after the first goal of their 9-0 victory over Denver East, and distributed them to sick kids at Children’s Hospital Colorado. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

The smiles on the faces of children and families at Children’s Hospital Colorado took away any fatigue of a taxing weekend for the Regis Jesuit ice hockey team.

Two days after they collected nearly 300 stuffed animals from their annual Teddy Bear Toss game Dec. 17 at Family Sports Center, the Raiders spread good will and fuzzy toys to many kids and families facing tough times during the holidays.

Just hours after returning in the early morning hours from a perilous road trip to Aspen in treacherous conditions, Regis Jesuit still managed to have extra hop in the 9-0 win over Denver East that was the precursor to their goodwill trip.

“Every game is about two points (in the standings); we treat every game as if it is the same as any other,” said senior defenseman Cade Alcock, playing in his fourth Teddy Bear Toss game.

Regis Jesuit players and managers scoop up the stuffed animals from the ice after junior Wyatt Verity’s goal during the Raiders’ 9-0 win over Denver East on Dec. 17, 2016, at Family Sports Center. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel0

“But knowing it was the Teddy Bear Toss and understanding what we get to do the day or two after is what energizes us,” he added. “We get to make the day a little better for kids who really need it.”

Before the hospital trip, the team collected the bears, which they did for the fifth straight season in an increasingly popular event modeled after several held by minor league hockey teams in the United States and Canada.

Junior Wyatt Verity — playing on Regis Jesuit’s varsity team for the first time — triggered the shower of stuffed animals with the first goal of the game when he tapped in a pass from linemate Shane Ott less than five minutes after puck drop.

“It was pretty awesome, especially having it be the Teddy Bear Toss goal,” said Verity, who had a hat trick. “Nobody was really talking about who was going to score it (the first goal), but it was awesome.”

Fans who braved the bitter cold and poor road conditions to bring their animals to the game let loose a stream of stuffed Minions, purple elephants and bears in overalls onto the ice, which filled six large garbage bags once team managers had collected them all.

Two days later, the majority of the team headed to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where they handed out the toys to children in the atrium and common rooms.

“You could tell it meant a lot to them,” Verity said. “It definitely made me feel fortunate and also bad because they have to go through so much at such a young age.”

Because of the hospital’s age requirements — only those 18 years and older can go up into the hospital — Alcock and fellow senior Kyle Nelson represented the team on upper floors, where they found people who really appreciated what they were doing.

“We went into waiting rooms and saw parents that were really nervous while their kids were in surgery,” Alcock said. “We said ‘Hey, would you like a teddy bear for your kid?’ and it seemed like it was the best thing that happened to them all day.”

Kathleen McBride, the hospital’s director of volunteers, said it is vital for patients to have activities to get a sense of normalcy.

All the better that they get to return to their rooms with a cuddly, stuffed prize.

“Two things that are really noteworthy about this is that the kids are willing to take time out of their holiday schedules to brighten things up for our kids,” McBride said.

“Second, it’s very powerful to have youth benefiting youth. All of our donors are great, but that youthful impact can’t be lost.”

In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the Regis Jesuit team gets the bonus of entering winter break undefeated. The Raiders skate against another undefeated team — Valor Christian — to open the second half of the season Jan. 4.