New York Islanders onesies, an infant carrier and a diaper genie — just some of the gifts given Wednesday to about two dozen military mothers and moms-to-be at a hockey-themed baby shower sponsored by the team and a nonprofit.
Operation Shower, a St. Louis-based nonprofit with a mission statement laid out in all capital letters on its website: "BRINGING JOY TO MILITARY FAMILIES ONE AMAZING BABY SHOWER AT A TIME," organized the event at UBS Arena in Elmont in conjunction with the Islanders, along with help from Ryan, a global tax services and software provider.
Nikki Hunter, 28, a U.S. Marine stationed at 1st Marine Corps District in Garden City, attended the event with her partner, Matthew Alicea, 31, a Marine Corps veteran, and their 2-year-old daughter, Camilla.
Expecting a second child has not kept Hunter from performing her duties as a Marine, she said, but Wednesday's shower was a welcome gesture.
“Something like this makes you feel appreciated,” said Hunter, an upstate Syracuse native who is 6 months pregnant. “I’m still doing this. I put the uniform on every day.”
Operation Shower has honored about 7,000 military mothers since its inception in 2007, said the organization’s founder and "chief shower officer," LeAnn Morrissey. The event was the second hosted by the group and the Islanders.
“We work to provide great gifts for them to get started with their new ones and to bring them together and connect with other moms that are similarly situated and then to show appreciation, love and recognize them for all they do,” Morrissey said. “We want to be the extension of their family today and say, 'we appreciate you and what you're doing is amazing.' ”
Master of ceremonies for the event was Shannon Hogan, an Islanders broadcaster, who conducted a series of shower games, where participants won prizes such as gift cards, baby clothes and diapers.
It was the Islander's first in-person baby shower held with Operation Shower. Because of the pandemic, last year's was a drive-thru baby shower, said Ann Rina, senior director of communications for the team.
“This is an event where they can come together and talk about their experiences, get to meet other military members that are in the same situation, but really a nice event so that they can go home with some of the items they’re going to need when their little rookies come home,” Rina said. "I'd love for this to be a tradition. The sacrifices these men and women make for our country, it's important for us to give back."
Medina Thompson, 23, also a Marine stationed in Garden City, is 3 months pregnant with a boy.
“Not a lot of people get an opportunity like this," said the Brooklyn native who hopes to have a long career in the Marine Corps. “People are out here really supporting the military.”
For Shantel Bell, 30, a Navy recruiter based in Queens, her 84-day family leave is coming to an end next week. She gave birth to her daughter, Kelsey, in April.
Bell said she has seen many strong women enter the military through her work as a recruiter and hopes more will get the opportunity to be showered with gifts and appreciation.
“This is my first child, so I’m not sure how this journey will be, but I was stationed overseas, and now I’m here stateside and I’m ready to start a family,” she said. “I look forward to seeing what’s next.”