Spencer Keough had never wrapped as many presents as he did on Dec. 20.
That night, he and his mother, Barbara, cut festive paper, made the folds around gifts and taped them up, finishing them off with a sticker. The wrapping lasted about three hours.
“I’m not the best gift wrapper, so she helped me,” said Keough, a senior ice hockey forward at DeMatha. “I’d wrap, she’d label and we’d move on to the next one.”
Keough wasn’t wrapping the gifts for friends or family. He was doing it as part of a holiday giving campaign he and senior defenseman Tyler Shaak set up to help two families in need at Hyattsville Elementary.
The tradition started for the 2010 Christmas season by Kyle Jiron, a 2011 DeMatha graduate, and has been carried on since.
In October, Keough, the Stags’ leader in goals (9) and points (13), and Shaak (3 goals, 5 points) approached coach Tony MacAulay and asked if they could coordinate the project.
“Tyler and Spencer especially are quite caring and generous individuals and teammates,” MacAulay said. “It’s nice to see nice people doing nice things for others, especially during a time that can be kind of depressing, but they’re making it a memorable day for a couple families. They kept it quiet. Those two don’t really want accolades for it. They did it because they wanted to do it.”
Shaak and Keough met with Hyattsville Elementary School Principal Julia Burton, formed a list of items for the six children, who ranged from ages six to 12, made a flyer and passed it out to members of the DeMatha hockey program. The response was enormous, with 77 gifts donated along with gift cards for the parents.
“I was thinking, ‘These kids are getting more than I was as a kid,’” said Shaak, who added he was a “pro” at wrapping presents after he finished his half.
When Keough and Shaak brought the gifts into Hyattsville Elementary’s cafeteria, the children started cheering and pounding on the desks. When they told the kids they still had to make another trip to the car to get the rest, the thrill went to another level.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Keough said. “I can’t put into words the looks on the faces of the kids. But I could definitely tell they were excited. Tyler and I talked about it and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done to make anyone feel happy.”
Said Shaak, “It’s just something I wanted to do to give back and help these kids and be a mentor and let them know there are people out there that want to help them. It’s not always going to be bad. There is good that comes with the holidays. So it’s just a feeling that you get that you want to help those kids.”