December 2019 Along the Boards

Rebels Visit Super HEROS

If someone were to walk in on the hockey game that was taking place in Calgary on November 24, they’d likely think it was a normal Sunday morning game, one of many games scheduled that day. What they wouldn’t realize though is the immense significance this game had for the players, their families and the game of hockey itself.

Since the launch of Super HEROS in 2018 our players have enjoyed hockey in a safe and welcoming environment during their own dedicated ice time. This atmosphere allows our players the flexibility to develop at their own pace and have fun in their own way. To be able to lace up their skates and put on a jersey with 24 other teammates is a dream come true. But like all athletes there is an urge for friendly competition, to work with your teammates towards a common goal. This seemed like a distant dream, even considering how far our Super HEROS have come in just one short year but thanks to a tremendous team from Regina, that became a reality.

The Regina Rebels Girls Peewee B team asked if our Super HEROS were up for a friendly game and of course our Super HEROS said yes! For the majority of our Super HEROS, they grew up on the outside looking in, whether that was at school or in sports. The responsibility often was on them to be vulnerable and ask other kids if they could play, sometimes having to hear “no”. But this time is was someone asking them if they could join in and play. For the first time our Super HEROS got to experience the thrill of real game action and the stands were packed with friends and family. For parents watching their son or daughter playing in a game for the first time, the opportunity was something they thought they might never see.

To the Regina Rebels, who asked to play and travelled all the way to our Super HEROS for the game, we say thanks. Real leadership is defined by actions and these young women are a true definition of positive leadership. They decided to embody the adage that Hockey is for Everyone, taking the initiative. This remarkable team gave our Super HEROS, their families and our volunteers a lifetime memory, one much more important than any trophy, medal or championship ever could.

CIBC Miracle Day  

It’s that time of year again! CIBC Miracle Day took place on Wednesday December 4 and HEROS was there to celebrate in Edmonton and Toronto. Our proud sponsor CIBC welcomes us to their celebration each year where brokers donate their commissions for one full day to charitable organizations across the country, HEROS being one of the lucky recipients.

The day’s activities included a tour of CIBC facilities for our players and a lesson on different jobs and sections of the banking industry. Our Edmonton and Toronto HEROS got the star-studded treatment this year, check out some of the photos below to see them rubbing shoulders with great Canadian athletes like Connor McDavid, Tessa Virtue and NHL legend Wendel Clark!

We would like to thank CIBC for their continued support of HEROS and year after year giving our players the experience of a lifetime on CIBC Miracle Day.

Parrish & Heimbecker

At HEROS we have been fortunate to develop deep and meaningful partnerships with many organizations, over the past 20 years. These partners have helped us to keep our lights on and reach thousands of children and youth across Canada. An organization that has demonstrated their commitment and passion to our vision of helping youth across Canada time and again is our National Partner Parrish and Heimbecker (P&H). We are very grateful for the relationship we have with P&H and the contributions of the Heimbecker family who are great champions of HEROS.

P&H’s presence can be felt in HEROS across Canada, because our co-founder and Board Member Casey McCawley is also the VP for West Coast Operations.  HEROS expanded to Winnipeg in 2009, and when the idea was presented to John Heimbecker by Casey, John was immediately on board and saw the need for the program. Both John and Casey understand the challenges that youth in Winnipeg face on a day-today basis, some stemming from deep cultural wounds that are still healing. Both know how important it is to create a safe welcoming environment that teaches key values and life skills while giving boys and girls the opportunity to play a sport so beloved by the city.

With John’s support the Winnipeg chapter was up and running and it quickly became a family affair. In the early days John would be on the ice helping run drills, his wife Lisa would bake cookies for all the players and his sister in law Stephanie would come to the weekly sessions and help off the ice as well. Eventually, more and more P&H staff were eager to get involved, including CFO Kevin Klippenstein who joined John on the ice. Today our Winnipeg chapter is thriving and is one of our flagship chapters from across the country, running four programs with over 150 boys and girls. John continues to support the programs and raise HEROS profile in the city including hosting and donating proceeds from a Winnipeg Business Association Christmas lunch to HEROS in 2018. “My family and I are honoured to have had the opportunity to support a program like HEROS in Winnipeg. The work HEROS is doing is truly making a real difference in young people’s lives.”

Casey McCawley and Tanya Hayes, P&H employees and HEROS champions, are located in Vancouver and deeply involved with HEROS initiatives. Three years ago, through the Fraser Grain Terminal, a P&H project, and in cooperation with Fraser Surrey Docks a donation of $150k was donated to HEROS Surrey. Casey and Tanya organized Hockey on the Docks, an event that celebrated the donation and gave our Surrey HEROS program participants the opportunity to tour Port of Vancouver facilities, learn about potential careers, and even play a little street hockey on the sight of the future Fraser Grain Terminal.

Since then the event evolved into our annual fundraising gala Hockey in the Harbour, which has two key common elements: the kids are still playing street hockey and Casey and Tanya are at the helm of organizing. When asked why they are so passionate about contributing to HEROS, they explain “You can see palpable differences being made. Sometimes small things can make a big impact in these kids’ lives.” Says Tanya P&H continues to invest in HEROS and actively encourages other organizations to do the same because they have seen first-hand the return on that investment, “HEROS invests directly in the players of the program. Costs are intentionally kept low to ensure that the majority of the funds raised goes to the kids who need it, and the results speak for themselves.” says Casey.

HEROS would not be where it is today without good friends and partners who have passionately worked with us.  In this holiday season it is nice to acknowledge and be grateful for the close friends we have in our lives, our friends at P&H are some of our closest. Thank you.

All in the Family

Those who are connected with HEROS would say the atmosphere feels more like a family than a traditional hockey program. The players who put on their HEROS jersey, the volunteers who lace up skates, and the families who pack bitter cold rinks week after week are a part of our close-knit community and are what makes our program so special.

The values that HEROS instills in its players are the same that mothers and fathers try to teach their sons and daughters: respect, discipline, determination and work ethic. In some instances we are lucky enough to see the work of our volunteers, demonstrated through the emerging leaders in our chapters. One such emerging leader is Amanuael, a third-year player from our Vancouver chapter. He heard about the program through a friend and was interested to experience hockey. Shortly after joining he fell instantly in love with the game. Amanuael says he enjoys, “showing some of the newer kids how their gear works, which shin pad goes on which leg and how to put their gear on, and sometimes showing the littler kids how to skate.”

Amanuael’s mother and father, Hermela and Samuel, are proud to watch their son grow up and demonstrate the HEROS values through his leadership with the program and are excited for their youngest son Natneal to learn those same lessons. Hermela says she is “really proud of how he’s grown in the program and how he acts like a man, even though he’s not one just yet, on the ice he acts like one and that makes us proud.” Both parents are grateful for the opportunity to have both their sons enrolled in the program, acknowledging that HEROS ability to offer hockey free of charge for kids is significant, “we’re from a warmer culture where hockey is not a big thing. When I see kids from our own culture skating, playing and loving hockey it’s truly amazing” says Samuel. Both boys have expressed the same excitement about being HEROS, Natneal even exclaiming “HEROS is the best!”

What makes HEROS feel like a family is the support we offer our players and their families. It gives our players, some who would have nowhere else to go, a place with people they can trust. Amanuael at his age acknowledges the value of having HEROS in his life, “it allows me to be active after school, rather than just go home and do nothing.” Hockey is the outlet that HEROS offers to boys and girls and in turn where our volunteers and mentors can instill our core key values.  Samuel has observed how the players are taking the lessons they learn in the rink into their everyday lives, “they carry the behavior they’ve learned on the ice in everyday life, like school. We can do as much as we can at home but the program allows them to demonstrate those values and responsibility.” Amanuael is a proud example of our values in action and we are excited he lives and acts like a HERO.

Greg Goodall 

The background and personal situations for some of our players can be difficult to hear at times. They find themselves in vulnerable situations and our mission at HEROS is to provide these boys and girls a positive outlet where they can grow and develop in a safe and healthy environment. Our job would be significantly harder if it weren’t for people like Greg Goodall, a Vancouver School Board Youth and Family Works Counsellor stationed in Strathcona. Greg works with youth and their families every day and helps to identify individuals who would benefit from participating in HEROS programming.

Greg has been working with our downtown eastside chapter since its inception 20 years ago, and he admits “I’ve been involved with HEROS so long I can’t even remember where it even began.” If there is a program or initiative that creates a positive experience for youth in Vancouver Greg knows about it and is responsible for connecting youth with those programs, he recognized that HEROS was one organization that was worth working with. He looks after the logistics for the players he sends from his school and explains the “troublesome 3-6pm timeslot after school, that’s the hours that some of these kids are most exposed, whether they’re from a single parent family and no one is home from work yet or whatever the situation. Not having somewhere to go during those hours can be critical.” One key component of HEROS programs is their consistency. Keeping the same ice time on the same day lets our players know that, even if they leave for a while, they know where to find us when they need us.

Greg acknowledges that sometimes his work involves having to have difficult conversations with students, “I had a young boy come up to me and ask if he can be in HEROS and I had to tell him he isn’t ready yet, he was of HEROS age and eligible but I saw him in the hallways and giving his teachers a tough time. So that told me that he wasn’t ready to listen to the lessons HEROS offers. It’s an opportunity and privilege to be a HERO.” After some serious work the student turned his behavior around and committed to demonstrating the values that made him ready for HEROS. Lessons in life come in many forms and before this young man entered HEROS Greg had already begun teaching him the HEROS lessons we teach every week.

Greg sees every day the real impact HEROS has on participants, “I have seen shy and reserved young people start in the program, not sure of themselves, and grow into confident respectful young adults who are comfortable with themselves. They take that confidence into other aspects of their life and continue to grow.” Each player has their own sets of challenges when entering the program, Greg recalls a story where “a young girl wanted to be in HEROS but not participate on the ice, she just wasn’t comfortable there. But the program allowed her to participate in the program by helping in the dressing rooms and do other off-ice activities. They’re flexible to the individual needs of the players. If a boy or girl walks into the arena they’re going to make it work.”  Greg admires HEROS ability to “level the playing field” for boys and girls and remove barriers that prevent them from participating in hockey or even just being part of a team.

During his long career as a youth and family worker Greg has worked with kids who manage some of life’s most difficult situations, but he has also been able to watch them flourish. Community workers like Greg open the doors and connect us with the boys and girls who have tremendous potential. We are grateful for the relationship HEROS has developed with Greg for the past two decades and would like to thank him for his service making the lives of boys and girls a little brighter.

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