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Blue Jackets Foundation, YMCA partner for "Skills & Drills" program

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets and the Blue Jackets Foundation have several goals in the central Ohio community, but one of them is to introduce kids to the game and give them a fun activity to try that, perhaps, they might not otherwise.

Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner and defenseman Ryan Murray were guest instructors for this year’s "Skills and Drills" clinic at YMCA North, where local kids learned more about shooting, accuracy and stickhandling from two guys who are pretty good at it.

The Skills and Drills program is hosted in conjunction with the YMCA of Central Ohio. Kathryn Dobbs, the new executive director of the Blue Jackets Foundation, came to the Blue Jackets from the YMCA of Central Ohio and always felt this program (or something quite similar to it) would be a natural fit for both organizations.

PHOTOS: Murray & Jenner at YMCA "Skills & Drills" clinic

“What we had in mind was a way to marry an ideal partnership between the Blue Jackets and the YMCA,” Dobbs said. “The Blue Jackets want to grow the love of the game in this community, and the YMCA wants kids to get active, take part in youth sports and have access they might not have, so on a lot of fronts, this made sense for everyone.”

And that’s the key word: access. The goal is to get hockey sticks in the hands of as many kids as possible, and the Skills and Drills program was a strong start. Murray and Jenner showed kids the ropes on stickhandling through a miniature skills relay course, hitting the four corner targets on the net, and even took part in a fun/slightly chaotic game of 12-on-12 floor hockey.

"This is great for the kids," Jenner said. "It's nice to be able to come out and spend a couple hours with them, just going over the basics and they seemed enjoy it."

Dobbs said that, in addition to getting kids to participate in the program, she hopes the kids and families realize that hockey doesn’t need to happen in a structured setting – sometimes, it’s a lot simpler than that.

“At one point, we envisioned some kind of tournament but we quickly realized that we need to do whatever we can to provide increased access for kids to learn to play the game,” Dobbs said. “I hope they walk away from this program thinking ‘wow, hockey is fun, it’s different and it’s something I want to do again.’ Playing hockey is something you can do in your drive way, in the street at home…you don’t need to have a sheet of ice in order to play.

“There are so many great facilities in this community that are ready and willing to let kids give hockey a try. For some, this is a great introduction to hockey and we hope it grows from there, and for others, we hope it grows their love of the sport even more.”

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