Tigers spread holiday cheer with Red Wings

December 23rd, 2020

DETROIT -- The Tigers and Red Wings don’t get a chance to team up as often as they might like, with seasons that run opposite each other. But with plenty of metro Detroit families in need of some help this holiday season, the teams came together to spread Christmas joy.

Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter and broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Matt Shepard joined Red Wings players Dylan Larkin, Luke Glendening and Darren Helm for the Hometown Holiday Assist, a program that provided an all-inclusive holiday experience for five metro Detroit families in need, from gifts to food to needed supplies, even a Christmas tree, and a chance to pay it forward.

“This game that we play or coach in, it's for the fans. It's for the kids,” Fetter said. “And anytime you get a chance to give back to the community, it gives back tenfold.”

The Tigers have hosted a holiday shopping event in past years, taking kids from families in need to buy gifts and enjoy a holiday dinner out. The Red Wings have traditionally held the Hometown Holiday Assist. Pairing up for this year’s event allowed the teams to help brighten the holidays for kids while observing social distancing amid the pandemic.

“For certain times of the year, we're definitely stronger together and can make a deeper impact together,” Tigers and Red Wings director of community impact Kevin Brown said. “Hometown Holiday Assist is a great example of that, bringing together two iconic franchises in the city of Detroit and partnering with Meijer and working with amazing nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army.”

The families didn’t know they had been selected by the Salvation Army through its Pathway of Hope program. In addition to Fetter and the Tigers broadcasters, pitchers Matthew Boyd and Buck Farmer and infield prospect Zack Short helped provide support for the project. Dickerson and Shepard helped shop for gifts at Meijer from a wish list.

With the lists completed, the group next had to deliver the gifts last week without the families realizing what was going on. They weren’t going to don Santa costumes and travel down chimneys, but they set up gifts and a presentation outside while people were away or otherwise occupied.

“Families didn't know they had been selected,” Brown said, “so they were just as surprised coming out of their home or coming back home after work.”

“It worked out perfectly,” Fetter said, “just to help set up all the presents and gifts.”

Once they realized the holiday cheer, they had one more gift -- a $1,000 donation each to the nonprofit of their choice. Two families chose the Salvation Army, while others selected the Ronald McDonald House, National Diabetes Association and the Samaritas Family Center, a local nonprofit that offers transitional homes for the homeless, shelter for victims of human trafficking and settlement services for refugees.

For one family, Brown said, this marks the first year they’ve had a Christmas tree.

“It's moments like that, you step back and reflect on what you're blessed with and the ways that you can help even in the smallest fashion,” Brown said.

“It's a great event,” Fetter said, “and I was fortunate to be asked to do it.”