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Role Models

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Blues defenseman Mike Weaver helps 11-year-old Daniel put on hockey gear and a jersey on Monday as part of the Blues' Big for a Day Holiday Party (Getty Images).

  Photo Gallery: Big for a Day at Scottrade Center
  Video: Watch the Big for a Day Event
  How to Help: Big Brothers Big Sisters Web Site
For a few minutes on Tuesday, 11-year-old Daniel imagined he was a big hockey star.

But it wasn’t easy.

Shoulder pads, hockey pants and a helmet made it more difficult to move than he had anticipated, and it certainly wasn’t easy to keep his balance while he ran on the ice. Despite the obstacles, Daniel took a shot on goal…and scored.

In his mind, more than 20,000 people were cheering and chanting his name, if only for a few moments.

Daniel lives in downtown St. Louis and is on the waiting list for a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization designed to improve the lives of children through mentoring. On Tuesday, he and 27 other kids were given an opportunity to spend time with a few Blues players and learn about the game of hockey. He toured the locker room, tried out some of the equipment in the weight room, and stick-handled through cones with Blues defenseman Mike Weaver.

Events like this are held to remind children still on the waiting list that they haven’t been forgotten by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I think it’s great that they organize these get-togethers before they meet their big brother or big sister,” Weaver said. “It’s amazing, just the smiles on some of these kids faces and showing them a little bit about hockey.

“When they came in, they didn’t know what to expect. But they had a smile on their faces when they scored a goal, and that’s kind of nice to see.”

In addition to the on-ice activities, the kids had dinner at the BlueNote Lounge at Scottrade Center and decorated picture frames with Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen and Ty Conklin. Each player's significant other also helped run the activities, and members of the Blues' staff volunteered and were paired up with kids for the night.

Big Brothers Big Sisters works with children ages 5-17 in communities all across America. According to their Web site, children involved in the mentoring program are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

The numbers speak for themselves.

“It’s kind of cool to get hands on, bring (the kids) in and show them what we do,” said Blues forward Brad Boyes, who helped with the on-ice activities. “Hopefully they’ll become a fan one day and spend their Saturday night here watching a game or doing different things…not dealing with drugs or anything like that.

“Kids are easily influenced in their surroundings and this program is awesome to influence them in the right direction.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri has 2,700 children working with mentors this year, and there are always 500 to 1,000 more on the waiting list.

Ann Davidson is an Enrollment and Matching Specialist with the organization and often interviews children and mentors to find a good match.

“We personally know the kids, and we know the volunteers from their interviews and working with them along the way,” Davidson said. “It’s a lot more rewarding when you have a stake in it.

“The kids are excited to be here and it’s something different from their normal routine.”

Luckily for Daniel, he’s been paired with a mentor and will meet him later this week.

“I was looking for a person who likes sports and would come to my basketball games,” he said. “I can’t wait. I just want to rush through the days until I meet him.”

Said Weaver, “You work your entire life to make it to the NHL, and once you make it here, you want to do so much for the community. It’s nice that some of the guys came out and we had a great time. It was fun, and once you reach your own goals, being able to give back is something special.”

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