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Coyotes' Matt Shott Nominated for 'Best Buddies' Champion

Shott embarks on a 10-week fundraising campaign to help make life more inclusive for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Coyotes Director of Amateur Hockey Development Matt Shott is a nominee for the 2020 Best Buddies' Champion of the Year. 

As a nominee, Shott will raise funds and awareness for "Best Buddies," the world's largest nonprofit focused on the social, physical and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

"We are thrilled to announce Matt Shott from the Arizona Coyotes as one of our seven Champion of the Year candidates," said Lisa Cleary, Arizona's State Director of Best Buddies International. "During this 10-week fundraising campaign leading up to the gala on November 6th, Matt will be raising funds for Best Buddies in Arizona to help support our mission of inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"He was chosen because of his philanthropic nature, connections within the local community and, most importantly, his desire to make a positive impact for those with IDD. Go Matt!" 

Shott will have a fundraising mission partner -- Drew (pictured at top of article) -- during his nomination campaign. Drew lives in Chandler and hails from the same town outside St. Louis as Coyotes forward Clayton Keller. Drew is a former player on St. Louis' special needs hockey team.

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Shott has volunteered within the IDD community for 15 years. He was nominated by Jessica Glass, a 2019 Champion candidate. 

"This isn't about me," Shott said, "but about building a better community. It's just about finding a way for us to live in a better community overall, and that means working to make life more inclusive for those that need it."

Best Buddies serves the IDD community which includes, but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities.

In 2016, Shott was contacted by One Step Beyond Inc. to help launch the "One Step Bobcats," the first special-needs hockey program in Arizona. One Step Beyond Inc. is an Arizona nonprofit that focuses on providing dynamic programs and services to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The team recently was re-named the "One Step Coyotes." Nearly 100 special needs players have played in the program through its first four years. 

"At the end of the day, I really do feel that everybody deserves the opportunity to do what they love," Shott said. "No matter the restrictions or obstacles they may have in front of them. And I bring that along with me to my job with the Coyotes. I try to give everyone a chance to play hockey no matter what disability they may have."

Shott utilized his resources to assist Jared Woosley, the founder of the team. Woosley is the Special Programs Director at One Step Beyond Inc.

A year into the program, Shott was able to work with the Coyotes to secure a $10,000 donation for equipment and ice time. 

"When it started Jared asked if we could donate anything, whether it be jerseys, equipment, ice time, whatever," Shott said. "It was very grassroots, very entry level for a while. We were pushing a lot of the players on chairs because they weren't yet comfortable on skates. But soon enough, they took a huge step in their development because they had a dedicated coach in Mindy French, who is actually a Kachinas coach as well.

"Now they're on the ice playing scrimmages and doing drills. Some of the kids are going to special hockey tournaments in other states." 

As a fundraiser, Shott, along with the other nominees, hopes to provide opportunities for friendships, jobs, leadership development and inclusive living. The campaign lasts 10 weeks, ending Friday, November 6. 

At the conclusion, nominees will celebrate each other's accomplishments, honor the Champions' collective impact, and name the ultimate Champion of the Year at the 17th Annual Spirit of Friendship Gala.

Photos courtesy: Matt Shott - Arizona Coyotes

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