The Atlantic Health Jets Women's Organization recently hosted 16 families for a holiday-themed military appreciation event. The AHJWO treated children, wives and husbands of military spouses who are deployed overseas to a day of fun and escape. It was the second annual Jets-hosted event inspired by general manager Mike Maccagnan and his wife Betty.
"It's a way to say that we are grateful for what they do," Betty said. "Mike's father served. His older brother also served for 28 years in the Army, so we've gone through several hardship tours with them. We've seen what his family went through and they were the inspiration for this event. It's just near and dear to our hearts."
For the families, the day began on the Jets' sidelines. After a walkthrough, players signed autographs for children who were then escorted inside to make gingerbread houses, write letters and assemble care packages for their loved ones deployed overseas.
"It's just a little way the organization can give back, say thank you, and help them get through this time of the year," said Mike Maccagnan. "I know what my brother went through in his life with his wife and two children, and this is just a way for us to say thank you to them all."
The spouses were also treated to a glam session that included massages, manicures, makeup and blowouts.
"These women are without their husbands for months at a time. They are single moms. They have to take care of their kids, they can't think about their husband or what he's going through overseas," said Jay Folk, wife of Jets kicker Nick Folk. "This is a day where they can put their distractions away."
Jets Host a Holiday Event for the Families of Military Members Who Are Overseas
Mallory Madrak was one of the women in attendance who was able to escape her hardships, even if it was for just a few hours. Mallory's husband is currently deployed in Kuwait while she is pregnant with their second child.
"I'm feeling great. I miss my husband, but this is a nice little thing for me to take my mind off it. My baby is in the other room, so it's nice to have a little bit of 'me' time," Madrak said. "When they go away, that's when everything starts going wrong. So it really warms my heart because not everyone gets to do things like this, especially when your spouse is away. Anything means so much."
One of the biggest surprises of the day was when the AHJTC turned into the North Pole as the parents were presented with toys to give to their children. For the second consecutive year, center Nick Mangold suited up in a Santa Claus outfit.
"It was a quick transition going from the jersey to the red suit, but it was a good opportunity to spend time with the kids here and put a smile on their faces," Mangold said. "I think the beard and the hair kind of lend themselves to being Santa, so hopefully we added a little bit more joy to the day."