On Wednesday afternoon, several Columbus Blue Jackets staff members and players climbed ladders, used nail guns and sawed wood paneling--not something they do every day.
But the team did so for a great cause as they volunteered with Habitat For Humanity MidOhio as part of a Blue Jackets community relations initiative to construct a 1,300 sq. ft. four bedroom, one bath house for military veteran Kelley Flanagan, his wife and three children in Newark, Ohio. The family is expected to move into their new home just before Christmas.
“This house is very important to us and will benefit my youngest daughter especially," said Flanagan. "She’s physically disabled and our living arrangements right now aren’t the greatest for her. She has some respiratory problems and so being able to get this brand new house with all the necessary accommodations where we aren’t going to have to deal with mold and mildew or anything like that is great. This could potentially be a lifesaver for her."
Flanagan and his family came out to the construction site and worked alongside the Blue Jackets players and staff, getting to know one another and working together to accomplish the day's tasks. For the family, they were excited to know that despite being pro hockey players, they were willing to help community members in need.
“I think it’s awesome and I’m very humbled and blessed that they are even doing this," said Flanagan. "They are professional hockey players and I never thought that they would take the time out of their day to help someone like us but it’s a huge blessing.”
Head coach Todd Richards, assistant coaches Dan Hinote and Craig Hartsburg, and Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski all helped by cutting and installing siding to the house, while defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Jared Boll constructed railings for the outside staircases at the front and back of the house--all projects that the players had never participated in before.
"I’m not the handiest guy in the world," said Wisniewski. "I haven’t really done it my whole life, but I actually had a blast getting into it. It was very self-gratifying to be able to see this happen and for progress to happen so quickly.”
Johnson and Boll were able to complete their projects together and helped each other learn to use equipment that they were new to.
“They had us using a nail gun and Boller and I were pretty excited to use it," said Johnson. "We had zero experience but Jared and I didn't screw anything up, so we were happy about that.”
Though the Blue Jackets players and staff had a great time and accomplished the tasks at hand, they said that the overall reason they were there would be the main memory that they take away from the volunteering opportunity.
“It means a lot to be able to help someone who has served for our country and has done things that we consider to be heroic," said Johnson. "It really puts things into perspective because we just play hockey. What this family has done for us is priceless.”
Wisniewski agreed. “This is one of the biggest things that we love to do as professional athletes and being in Columbus—being able to help the community. As much as we can do it on the ice in giving people excitement and entertainment, that we can come out here and lend a helping hand to people in need. For people who have fought for our country and put their lives on the line for our freedom, this is the least that we could do.”
When asked if he could make the same repairs to his own house, Wisniewski laughed and said he might need a little more practice.
“Maybe I can build a doghouse or something, start off small like that.”
The Blue Jackets Foundation will host Military Appreciation Night on Sat., Nov. 9 against the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.The Flanagan family will be present at the game that evening and Kelley will be recognized at the game for his service. More information about Military Appreciation Night can be found at BlueJackets.com.