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Jays Care community crew volunteers time

The baseball season's grueling pace is a year-round effort for Blue Jays staff. This December, however, Blue Jays staff had the privilege of leaving the office and getting out into the community to make a difference -- hands-on. On Dec. 17, staff left the Rogers Centre and headed out to Scarborough, eager to volunteer their time to the Share Christmas program at Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre. Additionally, the Blue Jays, through Jays Care Foundation, made a monetary donation to "Holiday Hamper" programs at both the Neighbourhood Centre and Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre.

Upon arrival in Scarborough, Jays Care Community Crew members spent the afternoon packing Holiday Hampers for families in need. From toothpaste to deodorant, from toilet paper to canned beans, from rice to toy cars to snow suits, Blue Jays volunteers did their best to fulfill the holiday wishes of those who needed a miracle most of all. In addition to fulfilling the basic requests of hamper recipients, volunteers included Blue Jays merchandise -- hats, jerseys, shirts, toys and bags -- to spread a very important message: the Blue Jays care.

"One excited young man took one look at his Jays jersey and said, 'I don't care if I receive anything else for Christmas,'" said Judy Formecki, Share Christmas Coordinator at Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre. "As it turns out, that was the only gift many of these young people did receive. Each of these families lives substantially below the poverty line. … [The Blue Jays'] support does make a difference."

"The staff of the Toronto Blue Jays are an amazing group of committed, caring people, and we've had a great deal of fun coming together as the Jays Care Community Crew," said Jays Care Foundation executive director Danielle Bedasse. "We were thrilled to be able to contribute to the Share Christmas program this year and spend the day packing Holiday Hampers for families across Scarborough."

The monetary donation from the Blue Jays provided 450 needy families with grocery vouchers for holiday meal ingredients and club volunteers were able to help provide 153 families with Holiday Hampers intended to ensure the holiday season was joyous for all.

"Many of our volunteers ... reported parents crying with relief to know they had something special for their children for under the tree from Santa," said Formecki. "It is amazing what we can achieve when we come together as a community."

The Toronto Blue Jays, 2012 recipient of the MLB Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence, and '13 recipient of the Beyond Sport Sports Team of the Year Award, believe every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential, regardless of the challenges they face. The Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Blue Jays, sets kids on a lifelong path to success by investing in charitable, community and baseball programs and facilities that focus on helping kids in need get active, excel academically and lead healthy lives. To date, Jays Care has invested more than $8.2 million in Canada's children and communities.

Matt Warner is a contributor to
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