Four of our very own HEROS recently had the great opportunity of attending the Willie O’Ree Weekend in Philadelphia. This was the 17th consecutive year that HEROS boys and girls had the honour of partaking in a weekend filled with inspiration and fun.
Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS) is a volunteer-driven charity that uses the game of hockey to teach life-skills and empower Canada’s marginalized youth. For over 17 years HEROS has engaged over 6000 boys and girls. HEROS provides all programming FREE for our most vulnerable youth by providing a ’Team for life” culture, celebrating their first goal on the ice and assisting in their dreams off the ice.
The journey for the HEROS youth started in Toronto. To kick off the weekend, the Calgary HEROS checked out the Hockey Hall of Fame and took in some other Toronto sights. Later, at Pearson Airport, meeting for the very first time were 2 of the Calgary HEROS and 2 of the Vancouver HEROS, and instant friendships were formed.
Off to Philadelphia the HEROS went, accompanied by HEROS Founder, Norm Flynn, and HEROS Director of Operations, Kevin Hodgson- two individuals deeply committed to Canada’s at-risk youth through various HEROS initiatives.
Upon arrival in Philadelphia, the HEROS did some touring of some of the historical landmarks around the city, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
After a day of exploring, the HEROS attended a banquet to kick-off theWillie O’Ree Weekend. Here, they were introduced to another 48 boys and girls from around North America who are also part of the NHL Hockey Is For Everyone programming.
Hockey is for Everyone™ uses the game of hockey – and the League’s global influence- to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.
The HEROS attending the banquet donning Boston Bruins jerseys and Willie O’Ree made a point of seeking them out for a memorable photo op. A very special event for the HEROS!
Saturday morning, the kids all woke up to a hearty breakfast before taking part in an outdoor wilderness camp in the chilly, rainy Philly weather. It was definitely a cool way to kick off the day ;). The much anticipated on-ice session came that evening where the HEROS got to learn from the professionals from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. That evening, a special bond was created amongst the 48 kids from Canada and the US. The way the kids were able to connect with their peers, socially especially, was very significant for the boys and girls participating in this unique experience.
The Wells Fargo Centre hosted a game on Sunday where the kids were divided into teams and played against each other on a full size NHL rink. A moment that won’t soon be forgotten for these kids! Immediately after the game, the HEROS were whisked away to jump on an Amtrak headed to Penn Station, New York City. Upon arrival, the HEROS had the chance to meet one of the HERO Ambassadros, Kaleigh Fratkin who plays in the Women’s National Hockey League for New York Riveters. Kaleigh began her involvement with HEROS as a high school student volunteering with HEROS, and continued to volunteer after beginning at Boston University when she would return to Vancouver in the off-season.
You know you’re a Canadian tourist when… your luggage is a hockey bag.
The whirlwind weekend continued for the HEROS as they were hosted by David Martella of the New York Rangers to the Rangers vs. Flyers game at Madison Square Gardens. Overall, an extremely exciting day in the Big Apple for our HEROS.
Monday, being the departure date, we wanted to provide our HEROS with some education of an event that happened only a few years before they were born. The kids visited the 911 memorial and museum as paid their respects at Ground Zero.
The opportunities that these HEROS were given for the Willie O’Ree weekend, and the events surrounding it, are memories that will be cherished forever. They are opportunities that are made possible from generous donations from HEROS supporters like you.