Tis' the Season for giving and receiving and no one received a bigger surprise this Holiday Season than Edmonton senior Ali Joyce. When Joyce requested an autographed Grant Fuhr photo for Christmas this season, the staff at Viselka Seniors Housing did her one better and actually surprised Joyce with an in-person visit from her hero himself.
Check out this video of Fuhr surprising Joyce:
Even better, check out this report from CTV Edmonton about the surprise visit:
EDMONTON -- An Edmonton Oilers all-time great made a special visit to a senior's home to surprise one of his biggest fans—and to spread some cheer to those who can feel isolated and lonely during the holiday season.
Grant Fuhr dropped in at Viselka Seniors Housing Monday for the Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program.
One of the home's residents, Ali Joyce, asked for an autographed picture of Fuhr, a request the program's organizers put to the community.
Speaking to media, Joyce said she's always been drawn to Fuhr, who was one of just a handful of black players in the National Hockey League in his day.
"I sort of fell in love with that, knowing he must have battled hard to get in that position to play for a team like the Oilers, and we were very, very fortunate to have him," she said.
People reached out offering signed memorabilia from the legendary goalie, but Stocking Stuffers for Seniors ended up not needing to take any of them because Fuhr himself said he'd make an appearance.
"A special surprise like this will be the greatest gift Joyce receives this year, and perhaps the most special memory of her life," the program said in a statement.
It certainly turned out that way. As Joyce was speaking about her love for the netminder, he walked in behind her.
"Oh my god, no!" she exclaimed with tears in her eyes, then jumped up to hug Fuhr. "You're absolutely the most wonderful person."
Fuhr said he first heard about Joyce's request from a former schoolmate and wanted to make an appearance to give back.
"I think when you retire, people maybe forget about you a little bit, but at the same time you have more of a platform to give back," said Fuhr. "They were good enough to give to us when we were in our prime, so it's just nice to be able to give something back."
Experts say the holiday season can be a tough time for seniors who face social isolation due to living arrangements, loss of loved ones or reduced mobility.
“I encourage all Albertans to reach out to the seniors in their lives," Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon said in a statement Monday. "Call them to catch up, invite them to dinner, or join them for a holiday event in their residence or in their community. Even a small interaction can have a meaningful impact."
Health professionals say loneliness and isolation can even lead to a 59 per cent increase in risk of physical and mental health decline in seniors.
The Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program partners London Drugs with local care homes and charities to provide gifts and brighten up the holidays for more than 4,000 seniors in Edmonton and 17,000 seniors Canada-wide.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Sean McClune.