Lehigh Valley, PA—The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are thrilled to announce that fans threw a record-breaking 10,869 stuffed animals onto the ice during the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss on December 9. This breaks the Phantoms’ former record of 10,091 teddy bears from 2019. It’s an amazing total that was achieved solely due to the generosity of incredible Phantoms fans.
The massive amount of plushies that rained down inside PPL Center during Saturday’s game were donated to Valley Youth House on Monday. They were personally delivered by Phantoms players Zayde Wisdom, Mason Millman, and Ethan Samson who combined to score the magical goal at 6:36 into the first period of the team’s 4-1 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
The three players arrived to Valley Youth House on the delivery day to unload and carry several bags of teddy bears into the offices of Valley Youth House, who receive and distribute the donations every year. The thousands of stuffed animals will be spread across the Lehigh Valley to foster children, homeless, and at-risk youth to provide them some comfort and joy during the holidays. It took four truckloads from Phantoms partner 1-800-GOT-JUNK to transport the incredible amount of teddy bears from PPL Center.
When all 10,869 bears were dropped off at Valley Youth House, caseworkers on hand were already preparing to quickly distribute several of the stuffed animals to their new homes with loving children throughout the valley.
It’s a perfect connection for 21-year-old forward Zayde Wisdom who grew up in poverty in western Toronto. Later, Wisdom dedicated himself to helping similar underprivileged kids in his area, which included his participation in Wayne Simmonds’ Charity Ball Hockey Tournament, among other initiatives. These efforts helped him to win the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence in the Ontario Hockey League in 2020, honoring his character and humanitarian work. Now, he is the 2023 Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Phantoms and is the player who triggered an avalanche of stuffed animals to benefit children in similar situations in the Lehigh Valley region.
“Heartwarming. Absolutely unforgettable,” Wisdom said of his experience at Valley Youth House. “Growing up [similarly], I knew exactly how these kids grew up. Just with my own situation. Being able to give back something a little bit more than just words and kindness, and being able to give them bears and something to go home with is unbelievable. I’ll never forget that for sure.”
Wisdom also talked about the work done at Valley Youth House and its impact on the Lehigh Valley, saying, “It’s God’s work, right? Not everybody can do this and it’s not always rewarding. I have a ton of respect for the people working here.”
Phantoms President and CEO Rob Brooks added, “Teddy Bear Toss Night is so fitting this time of year.” Brooks continued, “We are all thinking about the children in our community and how some are in difficult situations. The teddy bears donated from this game make a positive impact to thousands of local children and families. We have a great community of fans and supporters that make this initiative so special.”
Emily Conners Henry, Associate Director of Advancement and Marketing for Valley Youth House was also in awe at the record-breaking number of stuffed animals donated, saying “Valley Youth House is so grateful to work with the Phantoms year after year for the Teddy Bear Toss.” Conners Henry elaborated, “It means a lot to the young people we’re serving, because it allows them to feel joy and comfort and kind of deescalate all the things that are going on in their lives. Whether it be trauma or crisis situations. Sometimes, it’s the most difficult time in their lives and to be able to provide that comfort and care is extra special.”
During the nine years that the Phantoms have held a teddy bear toss in the Lehigh Valley, over 56,000 teddy bears have been collected and donated for distribution throughout the region. Additionally, the 50,000 mark for donated stuffed animals was passed at the same time that Valley Youth House is celebrating its 50th year helping so many kids and families in the region.
Click here for more info on Valley Youth House and the services they provide.