SMILE FOR THE CAMERA — Sabres hockey player Patrick Kaleta is pictured at the Cheektowaga Head Start holiday party with, from left; Alonso, Arianna and Antonio Ferrel. Photo by Andrew Manzella.
CHEEKTOWAGA — Buffalo Sabres right winger Patrick Kaleta paid a visit to the Cheektowaga Head Start Program for a holiday party that included cookie decorating, presents for the children and a visit from Santa Claus on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Thirty-five kids from the Cheektowaga area joined in for the festivities, with Kaleta. “This is our third annual event and Christmas is our favorite time of the year,” said Kaleta, who held a similar event at the Springville League for the Handicapped’s Preschool Learning Center, last year.
“Why not give kids, who may not have the opportunity to have a good Christmas, a chance to enjoy the festivities?” he added.
Kaleta ran the event in conjunction with the Helping Individuals to Smile Foundation, of which he is the founder.
MERRY CHRISTMAS — Buffalo Sabres hockey player Patrick Kaleta assists Santa Claus with handing out presents during the annual HITS holiday party. Photo provided by Matthew Chandler.
“Watching the kids open their presents and putting a smile on their faces means everything in the world to me,” Kaleta explained. The 12 families at this event mingled with each other while they decorated cookies and ate lunch with the hockey player. Later on, the kids got a visit from Santa and opened their gifts.
Also there helping out were Kaleta’s mother and his girlfriend, Ashley Cook.
“It’s very nice to give back. Everyone here seems to appreciate it a lot. We love doing things like this,” explained Cook.
Due to the current NHL lockout, Kaleta has some down time and said that, to occupy himself, he is finding new hobbies, including colecting baseball and football cards. Cook said that Kaleta is attempting to stay in shape and prepare for when, and if, the Sabres begin to play again.
The stated goal of the HITS Foundation is to bring assistance to families in need. It is currently providing funding for a program that will bring ice hockey to the Southern Tier.
“It’s a slow-moving process, but we’re working hard at it. We’re not going to stop until things improve and move forward,” said Kaleta, in reference to the sports complex that is scheduled to be erected soon in Springville.
To find out more about the HITS Foundation and its efforts, visit www.hitsfoundation.net. To make a donation toward Springville’s planned sports facility, visit hitsfoundation.net/donations.html
or mail a check to The HITS Foundation, 129 Zoar Road, Springville, NY 14141.
“We need to come together to help people,” Kaleta said. “That’s what Buffalo is all about.”