Otters’ third-annual Sock Toss collects over 4200 pairs of socks for Community Shelter Services
Erie, Pennsylvania – During the hockey season, the focus of wins and losses can seem like the most important thing. However, the opportunity to give back can truly reaffirm what really matters. For the third-consecutive season, the Erie Otters Hockey Club and its fans combined their efforts on Saturday, November 18 to assure that those in need in the Erie community would be able to put socks on their feet like everyone else during the harsh winter season.
The Charity Sock Toss – which launched following the pandemic in the 2021-22 season for the Otters as the first in the history of the Ontario Hockey League – encouraged fans to bring new, packaged socks to throw on the ice during the first intermission of the selected sock game. The socks would be collected, counted, and donated to the shelters within the Erie community ahead of the winter and holiday seasons. On Saturday night, the Otters would host the annual toss during the team’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Night against rival London – this time to benefit the non-profit organization Community Shelter Services. Executive Director Diane Lazette and Director of Development Fontaine Glenn oversaw the planning and distribution of the sock toss on behalf of the Shelter’s side.
Community Shelter Services is a non-profit organization known to the community for its commitment and integrity of the agency’s mission “to preserve the dignity and support the development of those individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by providing temporary, transitional and permanent options for shelter, as well as supportive services, referrals, advocacy, and community education.” CSS aids the poor and homeless who come to the agency for basic human services in times of critical need. Homeless and Resource Shelters, like Community Shelter Services, consider socks to be the number one most requested and needed item – especially in the winter.
“It’s something that so many of us take for granted, you get up in the morning and put on a pair of socks, but for a lot of our clients they might not have that. ” said Glenn, “It’s a barrier between them and the cold weather, so it is crucial for keeping their feet dry and warm and for their overall health as well.”
After collecting 1,591 pairs of socks in the inaugural season, and 2,281 pairs of socks last season, the 2023 edition of the sock toss saw 2768 socks tossed during the game night, which included:
- 1,489 men’s socks
- 785 women’s socks
- 494 kids socks
In addition to the socks tossed on the ice during Saturday night’s game, St. Martin’s Early Learning Center and the Erie Otters would once again partner up for the Center’s annual Socktober drive, led by the the Giraffe Class at the Early Learning Center. Through collected donations by the students and the generous financial donations of KML Industrial Supply, Pratt Insurance, and Michael Walling Allstate Insurance, the Otters were able to add an additional 1500 pairs of socks to the collected total. Otters’ mascot Otto and Director of Communications & Community Outreach Shawn Bednard collected the socks on the Friday before the game (Nov. 17), extending their gratitude to the students for their generosity and efforts. The Socktober drive was overseen by the Giraffe Class’ Mr. Paul and Pre-K Counts lead teacher Abbey Michalski.
“It’s very special. For our kids to see that they’re able to make a difference really helps. They understand and really get excited to learn and to know that’s what they’re doing with their socks.” said Michalski, “It teaches them that even they can be a small part of something big – even when they’re this young. This really helps them see that helping is fun, it’s beneficial for everybody, and it feels good to give back.”
With the addition of the donation from the Early Learning Center, the total collected number equaled 4,268 pairs of socks.
On Monday morning, Otters’ Vice President of Business Operations Chad Westerburg, Assistant Coach Wes Wolfe, as well as Bednard, and Otto delivered the donated items to Community Shelter Services. Executive Director Diane Lazette and Director of Development Fontaine Glenn were on-site with Shelter staff and volunteers to help collect the socks.
“People need a place to stay, and we are a 24/7 shelter. They don’t need to leave here during the day during the frigid temperatures. They are guaranteed four warm meals a day – it’s a nice safe haven for all ages (at Community Shelter Services).” said Lazette, “The temperature is dipping, and we want to be certain that we have warmth for their feet, to protect their health and keep them healthy through the winter. To think that we will be able to have men, women, and children all covered with these 4200 socks – the community is so giving and so wonderful, and we are so fortunate.”
In total the last three seasons, the Erie Otters have been able to donate over 8000 pairs of socks to those in need through the Charity Sock Toss.
“It is beyond humbling to see the extended selflessness and goodwill of our fans and the Erie community. It is initiatives and events like this that continue to push the envelope on why we have the best fans and community in hockey.” said Bednard, “Our organization is truly humbled by the donations from our youngest supporters at the Early Learning Center, to those in jerseys on Saturday night who littered the ice with socks for men, women, and children. The winter months are so difficult for our neediest population, and the donation of a sock goes so far.”
These socks will go to benefit the clients and residents of Community Shelter Services and the Lodge on Sass ahead of the winter season.
“On behalf of our entire organization, I want to send a massive thank you to all of our fans for continuing to support our annual Sock Toss event.” said Westerburg, “Being able to utilize our platform and passionate fanbase to do genuine good back for our community is incredible, and we couldn’t do it without the support of so many here in Erie.”
The Erie Otters and Community Shelter Services send their sincerest thanks to the Giraffe Class and all of St. Martin’s Early Learning Center, Otters’ fans and those in attendance from Saturday night’s game for being part of an annual tradition in Erie hockey. If you were unable to attend the game but would still like to support Community Shelter Services, please head to CommunityShelter.org.