The expression ‘made with love’ was probably never more true.
On Sunday Dec.4, the players of the Niagara Wheatfield Falcons varsity hockey team came together for their annual team holiday cookie bake.
But the homemade treats that were made on this day weren’t for their own enjoyment. No. For the second year in a row the Falcons gathered to make cookies as a way to say thank you to our armed forces.
“You mention it. They’re excited about it and they want to do it,” Falcons head coach Rick Wrazin said.
“We’re really proud of them that they want to do something for their community so willingly. It’s not difficult at all to get them there. We don’t have guys making excuses why they can’t make it. I think a lot of that goes back to their parents. They were taught from an early age to do things like that. So it’s good to see.”
Once again the Falcons’ goalie Dominick Tallarico’s family opened up the doors to their establishment, Tallarico’s Pizzeria in Sanborn, to serve as home base for the boys as they spent a couple hours crafting their culinary delights. All under the watchful eyes of a group of Falcon Hockey Moms who helped organize the event-and gave some baking tips-when needed. Splitting up into groups the players made a total of five different types of cookies.
Last season, the boys’ Treats for Troops produced cookies that the players baked, packed and shipped to troops oversees as a holiday gift.
Knowing that their efforts helped to brighten the day of some of our servicemen and women, doing this event again was, especially for the returning players, an absolute no brainer.
“Yeah everybody thought that it was a good idea. We’re all really close so it was no problem with all of us coming here a little early to bake some cookies,” Falcons senior forward Trey Malcolm said.
“Even though they’re not too good it was still fun to do.”
Military recipients of the 2015 Treats for Troops included Michelle Schmitt, who is the older sister of former Falcon player Alex Bauer.
Through Bauer, and Mrs. Margo Tallarico who helped organize both cookie bakes, the Falcons received several thank you messages from soldiers.
“When we heard that everyone was kind of touched by it, everyone was happy that they could do something for the troops,” Falcons junior forward Chris Tobey said.
Though not all of the players were able to see the thank you notes and messages from the troops, just knowing they were able to do something kind for those who defend our country made the boys smile and proud they were able to give back.
“It was just nice to know that even though we really didn’t do much, what we did still meant a lot to them,” Malcolm said. “It means a lot to us doing it.”
As important as last year’s cookie bake was, this year’s event will take on even more meaning as the theme for 2016 is Treats for the Vets. On Dec.8, members of the Falcons will don their team jerseys and hand deliver the treats to veterans at the V.A. Hospital in Buffalo.
“It means a lot,” Tobey said. “We obviously have a good time, but when we’re making them we make sure we’re doing it right and we don’t mess up so we can give them good cookies.”
While they know the reason that brought them together on this Sunday morning was to do something nice for others all of the players agreed that spending a couple of hours together away from the pressures of the game provided a perfect team bonding atmosphere where guys could share some laughs. Laughs, and debates over which group made the best tasting cookies. Joking that the first batch of cookies didn’t exactly turn out ‘show window perfect’, senior forward Matt Pawlak confidently stated that the chocolate chip cookies his group made were the best of the bunch.
“Oh yeah,” Pawlak said with a smirk.
Coach Wrazin, whose son Noah is on the team, said that having the opportunity to sit and visit with veterans at the V.A., will be a powerful experience and be a life lesson for the boys. “It’s gonna be a little bit of a wake up call for some of these guys,” Wrazin said. “I think it will be even more satisfying for them. Last year when we did it, they knew they were doing something good but they didn’t a chance to see it first hand.”
Agreeing with his coach, Matt Pawlak said that the simple act of baking cookies helps the guys look outside the four walls of their own world and remember that you should always pay your good fortune forward to others. “Yeah it’s just always good to do something nice,” Pawlak quietly said.