When John H. McConnell founded the Blue Jackets nearly two decades ago, there was one thing he deemed non-negotiable.
If you consider yourself a Blue Jacket, you must be committed to giving back. It did not take long for that attitude to become part of the organizational fabric; from surprise hospital visits to community outreach programs, the Blue Jackets have been hands-on in the central Ohio community.
The Blue Jackets Foundation has been at the forefront since its inception.
Raising money to support pediatric cancer research has been one of the Foundation’s long-standing objectives, as has promoting youth educational programs in Columbus that encourage kids to read and also those that promote wellness and physical activity.
The reach of the Foundation has touched many facets of the community, and this past week on the Front St. Plaza outside Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets’ charitable arm made its biggest announcement yet.
For the first time in franchise history, the Foundation’s annual grant total exceeded one million dollars. Think about that for a second: over a million dollars in donations to organizations such as Columbus Parks and Recreation, Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Flying Horse Farms and Make-A-Wish Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana.
Read the 2015-16 Blue Jackets Foundation Community Report
The dollar amount is significant, but pales in comparison to the impact.
“Our founder wanted us to seek impactful ways to give back to the community,” said Kathryn Dobbs, Executive Director of the Blue Jackets Foundation. “We challenge ourselves every day to consider the needs of Columbus, and the role we can play here in addressing those needs.”
At the core of the Foundation’s 2016-17 commitment is $400,00 to Columbus Parks and Recreation, a figure that was matched by the City – bringing the total investment to $800,000. The project will build eight playgrounds over the next four years in some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods – beginning with the Linden and Hilltop neighborhoods later this year.
“Health and wellness begins in our neighborhoods,” said Tony Collins, Director of Columbus Parks and Recreation. “Our goal is to have a playground within a half-mile walk from every home in the city.
“We can’t accomplish these goals alone – they require strong partnership from the private and nonprofit sectors. I am so excited to work for a city that is home to a team like the Blue Jackets, a team that is committed to our city.”
Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther was on hand to join in the celebration, praising the Blue Jackets and Foundation’s work to make the city a better place and for “investing in the opportunity of Columbus.”
While the Foundation’s announcement was a milestone and a launching point for the upcoming year, the real work begins now. Putting the grant money into action and making sure these programs are getting the resources they need is the top priority, with the health and wellness of Columbus’ youth at the forefront.
“It’s a big milestone. We’re incredibly excited about this project,” Dobbs said.