- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Washington Capitals have been spending some time on an off-rink activity lately: shopping.

Earlier this month, players went holiday shopping for needy children at Toys R Us, where they dropped $10,000 on toys to be distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.

Meanwhile, the players’ wives and girlfriends engaged in some retail therapy of their own on behalf of 25 families adopted by the Capitals through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

At the end of their spree, the shoppers had filled 40 shopping carts and five sport utility vehicles with toys and clothes for the underserved families.

On Sunday, the Capitals will host a post-Christmas skating and pizza party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., so they can meet the adopted families they were able to help.

Home for the holidays

The Christmas campaign for Luke’s Wings, a local nonprofit that helps arrange air travel to bring wounded service members and their loved ones together for the service members’ recuperation, will run through Dec. 30.

Since its inception last year, Luke’s Wings has been able to honor every serviceperson’s request, according to group co-founder Fletcher Gill, who says the advent of the holiday season brings “an influx” of letters from wounded warriors asking that their families be flown in to meet them.

To offset the rising costs of air travel and to be able to start the new year with a budget in the black, Luke’s Wings is asking for small donations - as little as $10 - via its Web site and Facebook page and is hosting a series of small holiday parties to raise funds.

To help the Luke’s Wings Christmas campaign, go to www.lukeswings.org or “friend” Luke’s Wings on Facebook.

On Jan. 22, the group is holding its Fashion Takes Flight fashion-show benefit; it will be announcing details in the coming weeks through online media.

Got Your books

Got Your Back Network, the local nonprofit created by “The Bachelor” star and physician Lt. Cmdr. Andy Baldwin to support military families that have lost a spouse or parent, is collecting books for the children of fallen soldiers this holiday season.

Lt. Cmdr. Baldwin said the National Geographic Society already has made sizable contributions to the effort, but private donations of children’s books of all kinds also are appreciated.

“Many are in need of gifts this holiday season, and what a better gift to give than a book,” he said via e-mail.

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