Penguins’ Better Halves get fashionable for charity

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First Posted: 3/25/2014

When the men are away, the ladies will play – or, actually, put their time to good use, organizing events to support local charities that also include the help of aforementioned men.

That’s what the wives and girlfriends of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey players (and even those players that have moved on to Pittsburgh) who call themselves the Better Halves are doing come April 2, when they join forces with the Palermo Heart-to-Heart Foundation to raise money for a local Beads of Courage program.

The ladies and their men will take to the runway for a Fashion for Charity event at Canteen 900.

“Oftentimes, we have this group of girls in town looking for something to do beyond the hockey life, and this time around, we also wanted to be able to give back to the community,” said Nicole Leblond, an organizer of the event, whose husband Pierre-Luc Létourneau-Leblond plays for the Pens.

The Beads of Courage is a program that’s been close to the Penguin organization for a while.

“We chose to support that program in particular because there was some involvement in it from the players last year and we knew the fans of the team are aware of what it is, so we wanted to pick up on that momentum,” Leblond said. “When the boys visit the children in the hospital, they’re very moved by it.”

Beads of Courage provides arts-in-medicine supportive care programs for children coping with serious illness. Through this program, children tell their story using colorful beads that act as symbols of courage commemorating milestones they’ve achieved along their treatment path.

The Palermo Heart-to-Heart Foundation began in 1991 as a small fundraising idea that has since grown into an organization that has raised more than $60,000 and awarded more than 35 recipients.

Every dollar of the proceeds made from the fashion show will go back to Beads of Courage, and if that’s not enough to draw you in, consider all there is to do that night.

“It’s really a night of wining and dining and mingling with players and the Better Halves,” Leblond said. “Not only do you get to look at great fashion, you get to have a night of fun with the people you usually see through the glass.”

Though the Better Halves will be the primary walkers for the show – which includes clothing from local boutiques Yuki, Showroom 56, Buka, and Tallulah and hair and makeup by Sakari Salon – some of the players will also be involved on the runway. Every single player has some part in the event, whether it be selling tickets or greeting guests. Everyone is doing their part to pitch in, thanks to the emotional connections they’ve felt through their time with the Beads of Courage program.

“Just last week, the players went to visit kids at Janet Weiss,” Leblond said. “It’s not just a matter of the beads; it’s that personal connection that moves people, and that’s what we’re trying to support at the end of the day.”