Literacy and hockey were the words of the day as the students of Danbrook Elementary welcomed the Anaheim Ducks to their campus for the club's 13th annual Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal Day.
The day-long celebration began early at the Anaheim school as Wild Wing greeted the 560 transitional kindergarten through sixth grade students as they arrived for class. Ducks staff members then visited each of the classrooms to read to the students and share how the importance of literacy relates to their roles within the organization.
As a ten-year partner school in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) Program, Danbrook Elementary was rewarded with the event as a result of their consistent participation in the S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal initiative.
Provided to more than 10,000 students across 300 Southern California classrooms by the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, Reading is the Goal is a free program designed to encourage and reward fourth graders for their commitment to reading. The school's teachers and staff have already seen the program's impact in their students' renewed love for books.
"We do enforce the importance of reading, but when the students see the Ducks organization coming out, it builds that excitement," said Danbrook principal Erasmo Garcia. "You can tell them to read as much as you want, but if you show that you're excited about it, they too will get excited about it."
After the reading sessions concluded, the Danbrook students had the opportunity to play hockey out on the playground during lunch recess, as the Ducks Hockey Development C.R.E.W. was on hand to work with the kids on some street hockey basics. Since many of the Danbrook families have limited exposure to hockey, the event served as a way to not only support literacy but grow the sport.
"We try to create experiences for them that are outside of the books so they can have some fun along the way," Garcia said. "This is one of those experiences. Watching them outside playing hockey, I think we are building a lot of Ducks fans here today."
Fourth grade teacher Theresa Ogawa, who serves as the school's S.C.O.R.E. Program coordinator, was grateful not only that the Ducks came to Danbrook to celebrate hockey and literacy, but for their continued support of local educators and students.
"Our kids aren't typically exposed to hockey, so to have [the Ducks] here and have them exposed to all of this has been absolutely amazing," Ogawa said. "For them to reach out and make this partnership with us shows that they not only care about their sport, but the community as well. It means a lot to the kids, and the importance of this day is something that's going to stick with them."
The festivities concluded with an afternoon assembly hosted by Ducks television play-by-play announcer John Ahlers. Danbrook fourth through sixth graders got to meet Ducks defenseman Josh Manson who stopped by to read "Brady Brady and the B Team" to the students, a hockey-themed children's book about balancing athletics and academics.
Manson also fielded questions from the students and shared about his path in hockey from Saskatchewan to Anaheim and the NHL. As a former collegiate player for Northeastern University, Manson also stressed the importance of education and how a lifelong love for reading and learning can benefit all students, no matter which career path they choose.
Sixth grade Danbrook student Ann Irish Luzadas, who participated in Reading is the Goal as a fourth grader, was appreciative of Manson and the Ducks for taking time to come to her school.
"I think it's a really memorable moment, and it was really awesome," Luzadas said. "The Ducks inspire me because they chose to come to our school, which means our school is actually really special. This day will be a day I remember for the rest of my life."
Manson and Ahlers presented Garcia and Ogawa with a collection of hockey-themed books for the school's library, a framed Ducks jersey signed by the team, and a full set of street hockey equipment so the students can continue their commitment to both literacy and learning the sport of hockey.
"Hopefully me being here, and the Ducks being here today, brings these kids more days that they are thinking about reading and hockey," Manson said. "And the gifts that the team leaves behind keeps hockey here now for years to come."
Garcia recognized the positive legacy an event like this will have on the Danbrook students long after the Ducks have left their campus.
"There's an idea that kids grow the best when they have adults who care, and today, the Ducks organization is showing that they have a big heart and that they care," Garcia said. "It gives them this mindset that we have to give back to the community and that we have to do good things for other people. Beyond the academics, it's coming together as a community and doing something special."
For more information about the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com.