There were a lot of smiles on faces as people filled the Great Lakes Brewery Company pub on the concourse at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night before the team's game vs. Carolina.
It even seemed Blue Jackets mascot Stinger had a little extra joy in curl in the corners of the mouth.
And why wouldn't it be that way at an event that summarizes a year's worth of good for the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation?
At the pregame reception, the foundation's grants for the 2019-20 cycle -- a full $1 million in funds raised -- were disbursed to 37 organizations from Central Ohio that fulfill the its mission. Nonprofit organizations that help the community in the areas of pediatric cancer, education, health and safety, wellness and youth hockey were honored, and all went home with money that will help them reach their potential.
"It takes all of us to make a difference," team general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told attendees as the foundation's support of the Central Ohio community topped $11.4 million since 2000. "It's part of our team culture, but it's also a privilege for us to use our platform and our resources to help children across Central Ohio."
Of the 37 nonprofits to receive funding from the Blue Jackets, 34 were repeat honorees. Three, however were new selections after applying during this year's grant cycle. Among them were Girls on the Run of Central Ohio, United Schools Network and the Children's Hunger Alliance.
"It's super exciting," said Taylor Trejo, a development manager with United Schools Network. "We've been able to tell all of our school directors and teachers, and they've been really excited to utilize the funds and get started."
The foundation's grant to United Schools Network will allow the charter school the funding to accomplish two goals. First, the grant money will fund a literacy initiative at each of United Schools Network's four schools in the Central Ohio area that will feature CBJ-themed literacy nights, and each student will be given a book at the end of the night. In addition, the schools will be able to purchase new books that match the diversity of their student bodies.
The Children's Hunger Alliance will use its funds to offer a "Train the Trainer" program for its Coordinated Approach to Childhood Health (CATCH) physical education curriculum, which will certify interested afterschool site staff so that they can deliver physical activitiy and nutrition education lessons. This will help the agency to increase children's nutritional literacy and levels of physical activity while also adding value to CHA's afterschool program partners.
Girls on the Run of Central Ohio will be five teams of elementary school girls in Columbus City Schools that, based on free and reduced lunch rates, will receive free athletic shoes that will encourage physical activity. The grant will help encourage the students in the high-need schools to build confidence as well as social and emotional skills through participation in athletics.
"It's really a difficult time for girls," said Jess Sparks, executive director of Girls on the Run of Central Ohio. "Their self-esteem is highest in third grade, and they start becoming less physically active in fourth grade. It's a very critical time of child development."
The new programs supported by the CBJ Foundation will help enrich and enhance the lives of children in the Central Ohio community in numerous ways.
"We're super excited," Sparks said. "It's been amazing to grow our reach within the community with the support of grants like this."
For a full list of the 37 nonprofits to receive grants, click here, and for more information, visit BlueJackets.com/community.