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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Lady Blue Devils spread holiday cheer with Christmas cards

The smallest gesture can sometimes have the biggest impact.

On Saturday, Dec.18, guests of the St.Francis Soup Kitchen near Assumption Church received an added surprise with their midday meals.

Homemade Christmas cards that were crafted by the Kenmore West Lady Blue Devils basketball team.

“It feels good and it’s heartwarming that we get to do something good for other people,” said senior Kailee Bladin.

This wasn’t the first time the Lady Blue Devils touched the lives of those who come to St. Francis.

In January of 2017, the Lady Blue Devils began the yearly tradition of visiting the kitchen to serve lunch to and interact with the guests who receive lunch at St. Francis, which is located on Amherst Street in the Black Rock section of Buffalo.

The trip was arranged by assistant coach Paul Catalano who has been a longtime volunteer at the kitchen.

He and head coach Jeff Martin felt bringing the girls to help at the kitchen would not only give them an opportunity to do community service. It would help the girls realize how truly lucky they are to have a home with loving parents and plenty to eat.

To help them put life in perspective and see that in the big picture the results of a basketball game are minor compared to those who face the daily struggle of not having enough to eat.

It worked.

The girls quickly bonded with the people they served lunch to as they laughed and shared life stories.

It was something they vowed to keep doing year after year. They did. Until Covid-19 struck keeping them from last season’s visit.

Not being able to visit left a void in the hearts of the players who always looked forward to the trip and a chance give back.

“We all look forward to it,” said Bladin. “It was fun. It was a team bonding.  Seeing the faces of the people there, it just made the whole year. The whole basketball season. I looked forward to doing it.”

Safety protocols prevented the team from this year’s visit, so Catalano came up with an alternate plan. Have The girls make Christmas cards  and attach them to the boxed lunches that would be given out.

The girls faces instantly lit up as they embraced the idea of making cards and the chance to give back again.

“Missing out on going to the soup kitchen kinda sucks cause that’s something we look forward to. Christmas season. Basketball time, helping people out,” said junior Delia Lake. “And I feel like the Christmas cards kinda made up for that and I think we’re gonna do that again next year along with visiting the soup kitchen, if Covid let’s us.”

When the meals were handed out the guests asked what was on top of the boxes. Catalano flashed his warm, friendly smile as he told them.

“I said all the girls from Kenmore West basketball team made Christmas cards for you and put a little note in there for you,” said Catalano. “They were thrilled. A couple people were saying I didn’t get a Christmas card yet. So they are treasuring those cards. So it was exciting for me to see how excited they were to get a card, but more importantly that little message the girls put in there, that maybe they think wasn’t gonna be a big thing-that was a personal note to a homeless person. To a person who doesn’t have anybody at home. So it kinda made their holiday.”

When he first presented the idea of the cards to the girls Catalano asked the players how many cards did they expect to receive this year.

One girl said about 20. When Catalano told them that their card might be the only card or only true holiday wish these people would receive all year it struck a chord with the girls and told them how truly important this project was.

“It’s nice to be important to someone,” said Lake. “And it’s nice to know you’re making someone’s day.”

Though the girls obviously wished they could have visited in person the life-lesson to help others came through.

And they made sure to write something caring that could touch the person who received it.

“I just wrote we care about you. You matter,” said Lake. “Happy Holidays. Stay safe. We hope you’re healthy.”

While the in-person trips were nice as it gave the guests a chance to meet and receive a smile from a young person who genuinely cared the cards were, in their own way, even better because it gave the guests a tangible reminder that someone cares. A reminder they could hold in their hands, take with them and keep forever.

“I talked to the girls the day after and told them what the cards meant to those people,” said Catalano.

That’s when the impact of their kindness really hit home with the girls.

“I am lucky enough to receive lots of Christmas cards every year,” said Lake. “Some times you don’t think about the people that don’t get 20 plus cards from their friends and family because they don’t have any friends and family. And it’s really nice to be giving that feeling to somebody else. ”

The girls are already talking about making Valentine’s Day cards for the guests in February.

Catalano said that the cards themselves were beautifully designed. Most better than anything you would find in stores. But the true beauty wasn’t in the way the cards came out. It was in the hearts of the Lady Blue Devils who care enough to put so much love an attention into them.

“They took the time to do something nice for somebody,” said Catalano. “And you’re always going to be rewarded for that.”

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