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Beleskey, Smith-Pelly and Ducks Staff Promote Literacy at Reading is the Goal Day

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Jenelyn Russo

The word of the day at Greentree Elementary was literacy, as the Anaheim Ducks hosted their eighth annual Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal Day last week at the Irvine elementary school.

Ducks staff members kicked off the day-long celebration of literacy by visiting Greentree’s kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms and reading to the students from hockey-themed books such as The Magic Hockey Stick, Sponge Bob’s Slap Shot and the Brady Brady series.

A Ducks staffer reads to one of the classrooms at Greentree.

The staffers also shared about their roles within the Ducks organization, answering questions from the kids on how the importance of literacy relates to their responsibilities. The in-class sessions concluded with the students receiving Ducks-themed items such as stickers and bookmarks.

A longtime participant in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) program, Greentree Elementary was thrilled to be selected as the site for this year’s Reading is the Goal Day.

“We have a great relationship with [the Ducks],” said fourth grade teacher, Alex Abshier. “The staff has been wonderful with the kids, reading to them throughout the day. The kids are very excited.”

As one of the initiatives of S.C.O.R.E., Reading is the Goal is a 30-day program designed to encourage fourth-grade students to log how much time they spend reading each day and in turn receive awards for their efforts. Abshier is a big fan of the program, calling it an effective motivator in getting kids to pick up a book.

“It’s just a great idea to get the kids to read,” said Abshier. “The critical thing is that it encourages them to really think about their education as being important.”

During their lunch recess, students had the opportunity to give street hockey a try, as the Ducks Street Team hosted some pickup games on the campus playground.

The festivities concluded with an afternoon assembly attended by the school’s fourth- and fifth-graders, featuring Ducks players Matt Beleskey and Devante Smith-Pelly.

With the help of the Ducks Street Team, students got in some street hockey during recess.

The energy was high as the students filled the room, donning their orange Ducks t-shirts. Host Kent French kicked things off by introducing the two players as they read to the kids from Brady Brady and the Twirlin’ Torpedo. It’s the story of a young hockey player named Tes and the teasing she encounters for being a girl who plays the game.

Beleskey and Smith-Pelly took turns reading to the crowd of 150 students about Tes and her determination to play the sport she loves with the support of Brady and her teammates, a reminder to the students to always treat each other with respect.

The floor then opened up for questions, as the kids asked everything from the curious to the poignant of the Ducks forwards (click here to see what happened when the kids asked the duo where they went to college).

Questions such as, “Have you lost any teeth?” (yes, for both) to “Have you ever shattered the glass?” (no, for both) to “Who is the oldest player on the team?” (Bryan Allen, Francois Beauchemin and Jason LaBarbera are all 34 years old) were posed by the fourth and fifth graders.

In response to how long they've been playing hockey, Smith-Pelly got his start in the sport at age eight, while Beleskey was playing by the early age of four. The Ontario, Canada natives listed former Toronto Maple Leaf greats as their hockey heroes, such as Wendel Clark and Mats Sundin. But both cited their fathers as their true heroes, having influential roles in both their hockey careers and their lives.

When asked why they chose hockey out of all the possible career paths, Smith-Pelly said the opportunity to play a game for kids as an adult seemed like a good choice.

“It’s something I loved to do as a kid,” said Smith-Pelly, “something I really enjoy and something I don't see as a job.”

Beleskey reinforced the idea that no matter what path the kids choose, dedication and hard work are key.

“If you don't put in the time, it’s never really going to pay off,” said Beleskey. “Do the right things and you’ll find good things will happen.”

“It really makes kids select a reading goal, a target,” said Greentree's principal, Tamara Brown. “In life, we have goals for everything. That component added into kids setting goals, especially around reading, carries that forward in life. You can see it as the kids age up into fifth grade and sixth grade and, hopefully, as lifelong learners.”

At the close of the assembly, Wild Wing and the Power Players, along with Beleskey and Smith-Pelly, presented Greentree principal Tamara Brown with a collection of books for the school’s library, a full set of street hockey equipment and a framed jersey autographed by the entire Ducks team.

Additionally, the students each received tickets to an upcoming Anaheim Ducks game, the gift that received the loudest cheers as many in the group had yet to attended a NHL game.

Smith-Pelly said he realizes the importance of being able to help influence the students in the area of literacy.

“It’s huge,” said Smith-Pelly. “If I was a kid and got to experience something like this, it would definitely steer me that way. Anytime you can help children learn, it's good.”

And Beleskey appreciated the kids’ excitement that day, both for the Ducks and for reading.

“I just like seeing how excited the kids get, especially when it comes to reading,” said Beleskey. “Just seeing them show some enthusiasm about it and to give them a reward for doing something good at school, it's always fun.”

With the purpose of promoting academic excellence along with healthy living through its initiatives, the S.C.O.R.E. program is provided to schools throughout Southern California at no cost to the participants, thanks to the Anaheim Ducks Foundation. The Reading is the Goal program alone impacted over 9,000 local students during the 2013-14 school year.

Principal Brown expressed gratitude for the Ducks efforts in the area of literacy and said that the program has been instrumental in leaving a positive legacy with their students.

“It really makes kids select a reading goal, a target,” said Brown. “In life, we have goals for everything. That component added into kids setting goals, especially around reading, carries that forward in life. You can see it as the kids age up into fifth grade and sixth grade and, hopefully, as lifelong learners.”

For more information on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, visit

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