After the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation announced Monday the donation of a record total of $850,000 to local charitable and youth hockey organizations for the current grant cycle, community members gathered for a small reception to celebrate inside Nationwide Arena.
“The reason that we’re hosting the reception today is because, since the team’s inception in 2000, there’s been a lot of great stuff happening and a lot of good programs,” said Kathryn Dobbs, Vice President of Community Relations & Executive Director for the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation. “Not only did we want to bring people together to talk about the investment of this past season and what’s coming, but also to highlight a few of the programs and impact of the support of the Foundation since 2000.”
“This is also an opportunity not only to bring our grant partners in to celebrate, but also to include some of our community leaders, our corporate sponsors and our donors and friends so that they can see in fact what we’re doing with the money that they’ve contributed to the Foundation in the last year.”
Since its inception in 2000, the Foundation has invested over $7 million in central Ohio to support initiatives that fight pediatric cancer, grow and support youth hockey and keep kids healthy and safe. This year, a first-time grant was given to the Columbus Metropolitan Library Foundation to support homework help centers in four new branches opening in the next year.
To complement the Blue Jackets presence at the Northern Lights, Shepard, Parsons and Main Library locations, the collaboration also encompasses a new monthly reading program that will be introduced later this year. Another signature project made possible by a grant to the Community Shelter Board is the construction of a Blue Jackets-themed playground at the Van Buren Shelter.
READ: Foundation grants record-setting amount of $850,000 to local hockey orgs.
“I think as we try to tell the story, we look at it as youth health and wellness for the community and we’re doing it in four different areas from supporting pediatric cancer, education, health and safety and then youth hockey,” Dobbs said. “We play a very important role for growing the sport in this community.”
Additionally, several annual grants are dedicated to the development of youth and amateur hockey and making the game accessible to all who want to play. Among those recipients is Ohio Sled Hockey, a local organization that supports people with disabilities and gives them opportunities to skate and play hockey.
“Our biggest thing is we don’t want to ever ask the parents to pay, because so many of us have medical bills that are crazy and you don’t ever want a child or a family to choose between playing a sport and medical cost,” said Kelly Fenster, general manager of Ohio Sled Hockey. “The Foundation helps fund it. Within this grant that we got, we’ll be able to suit up five kids, fully geared from head to toe, brand new sleds that will be able to stay with the program as new kids come in.”
The grant also includes funding to cover the travel costs for about 14-17 players and coaches who will represent the Blue Jackets at the NHL Sled Classic.
“I don’t even know where to begin, because (the Foundation) has helped us grow and give opportunities for so many (people), not just kids but adults and individuals with disabilities that necessarily don’t have the opportunities to do so many other things,” Fenster added. “And the best thing about it is they’re able to give all of these individuals a chance to play a sport that they love and excel in so much and going to the NHL Classic, you get to meet and you see so many friends that you know from all across the country.”
The four-day event, hosted by the Florida Panthers and Florida Sled Hockey Association, will take place November 19-22, 2015, at the Florida Panthers IceDen, the official practice facility of the Florida Panthers, in Coral Springs, Florida. 20 NHL sled teams are expected to play in this year’s tournament.
“They develop so much from this because it not only helps them emotionally, but it helps them physically,” Fenster said. “So many of these individuals, they have to do physical therapy or occupational therapy and just doing a sport also serves all of those needs and if you just get to see the team together, then you see the comradery that they build and how it comes together on the ice as a team.”
Founded in 2000, the Blue Jackets Foundation’s mission is to help central Ohio kids get healthy, play safely and stay active. As the charitable arm of the National Hockey League club, the Foundation leverages its unique resources – players, coaches, staff and fans – to partner with and invest in central Ohio charities.
“I think we’re particularly excited about it because over time, as the team gets better and our fan base grows, this is another important arm for us and from the beginning we wanted to make sure we invested back in the community,” Dobbs said. “So with all of the support that grows in those areas, grows support to the Foundation and so for us, it’s a wonderful trend. We have a lot to be excited about, both on and off the ice and I think this is great momentum for us until the season starts.”