Justin Hogan remembered the Johnstown Chiefs Teddy Bear Toss promotion held annually during the holiday season.
The Forest Hills senior hockey player recalled how hundreds of new stuffed animals and toys were tossed onto the ice after the Chiefs scored their first goal of the game. U.S. Marines and the Chiefs staff worked frantically to collect the toys off the ice as Christmas music played over the War Memorial Arena sound system.
“I always thought that it was pretty cool,” Hogan said on Wednesday afternoon. “It was great how they helped the unfortunate children during a pretty special time of the year.”
The tradition made an impact on Hogan and his fellow senior teammate Logan McCall.
As part of their senior class project at Forest Hills, Hogan and McCall helped coordinate a Toys for Tots drive in conjunction with tonight’s Laurel Mountain Hockey League game between the Rangers and Ferndale at Planet Ice.
Fans who donate a new stuffed animal or toy will be admitted free to the 8:35 p.m. contest.
“We had to talk to the Toys for Tots people. We had to get boxes and posters made up. It took a couple weeks,” McCall said. “If fans bring a toy to the game they get in free, and they put the toy in the box at the gate. This charity means a lot to a lot of people. We hope they get a lot of toys.”
The U.S. Marine Corps adopted the Toys for Tots gift giving program in 1948. The mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during the months and weeks prior to Christmas and then distribute those toys to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
“The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens,” the official Toys for Tots website states.
“I talked it over with my dad after remembering going to the Johnstown Chiefs games and how they had their annual Toys for Tots toss,” Hogan said. “Most people picked a subject and (students) have to do a report and a presentation for our senior project. We kind of wanted to do something that would have a lot more meaning to it. We felt Toys for Tots would be a good cause.
“We wanted to be different and do it for a good cause.”
Once the toys are collected and deposited into the big boxes at Planet Ice, the 2-3-0 Rangers will play the 1-2-0 Yellow Jackets.
Hogan and McCall credited their coaches and teammates for assisting with the project, and the duo believes Ferndale’s players, coaches and fans will help make the Toys for Tots event a success.
“The Johnstown Tomahawks mascot, Chopper, will be there for the little kids,” Hogan said. The Tomahawks will continue the tradition at the War Memorial with the NAHL team’s Teddy Bear Toss on Dec. 15.
“It’s supposed to be a good crowd,” McCall said of tonight’s contest.