Christmas came early for the Roller Rats, a youth hockey team at Oak View Community Center.
Thanks to $2,000 in donations, the roller hockey players received the protective equipment they need to play competitively.
The players on Wednesday received new shin guards, elbow pads, shoulder pads and gloves, and immediately put them on for practice.
Most of the players live in the nearby Oak View neighborhood, a low-income community, and many cannot afford to buy the expensive equipment, said Ernie Hurtado, an Oak View Community Center recreation leader who coaches the 20-player team. A recent article in The Times about the hockey team's need prompted an outpouring of community support.
People such as Dale Dunn, a member of Friends and Neighbors of Seacliff Inc., a community group that supports the Seacliff housing development, and Bruce Alvarez, owner of Ace Auto Parts in Huntington Beach, wanted to help.
They solicited donations, and FANS and the Rotary Club of Huntington Beach contributed a total of $1,000. Alvarez chipped in $500, and his cousin, Alex Alvarez, owner of Advance Tube Engineering Inc., a local company, also gave $500.
Hurtado said Mission Roller Hockey in Santa Ana donated 21 pairs of skates and 21 hockey sticks. The Hyper Corp. in Huntington Beach donated 400 skate wheels and T-shirts.
Hurtado said the donation "means that we can get ready to play in a league." The team plans to be in a league by February, he said.
"I just feel like kids need a little direction and a little help, so I decided to help them out," Bruce Alvarez said, adding that now they are trying to get sponsors to buy the team uniforms.
Now the team can "go out and play with other kids who are also outfitted to a T," Dunn said.
As for the players, 15-year-old Jeff Peterson said: "The kids appreciate it."