IRVINE, Calif. -- Continuing their commitment to making an impact in the community, the Ducks this past Friday partnered with the United Heroes League for an afternoon of hockey and skating activities for 50 kids ages 7-14 at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena. The volunteer event gave Ducks staff members the opportunity to share their passion for hockey and ice skating with kids from military families.
Each child that took part in the event was gifted a brand new pair of skates courtesy of the United Heroes League's partnership with Bauer Hockey. Per their website, the goal of the UHL is to ensure that all five million military kids have the opportunity to develop critical life skills and have a healthy lifestyle through the act of playing sports. To date, the UHL has helped over 50,000 military families keep or start their children in sports.
It's a humbling and rewarding experience for UHL President and Founder Shane Hudella, a retired Army First Sergeant (1SG). "If you look around and look in the stands, and you see some of the military parents, some of them are amputees and some are still serving and getting ready for deployment," Hudella said. "Some of the parents paid the ultimate sacrifice and aren't with us here today. For the kids to be able to come out and forget about some of the stress, some of the worry and fear, and [if we can] put a smile on their face, that's exactly why we do this."
At one end of FivePoint Arena was a "learn to play" session that put the kids through various drills and culminated with an entertaining breakaway competition. At the other end was a "learn to skate" activity that included a relay race utilizing Bobby the Seal - a safe and fun skating aid that makes it easier for beginners to learn how to skate. Ducks mascot Wild Wing made an appearance, much to the delight of the kids on the ice.
"The Ducks are honored to be able to partner and support the United Heroes League while assisting them in their mission of keeping military kids active and healthy while their parents serve our country," said Jesse Bryson, Ducks Community Relations Manager. "This event was a wonderful opportunity to connect our staff with United Heroes League children who share that same passion for hockey and skating. The afternoon was a fun day on the ice for everyone and a great way to better educate our staff about the great work that UHL is doing in the community to support military families."
Prior to the event, Molly Schaus, Ducks Fan Development Marketing Manager and two-time U.S. Olympic silver medalist, shared her love for hockey to the girls that participated.
"Just being out here with this group of kids, you see their excitement to play hockey for a day," Schaus said. "They go through a lot throughout the year with family. To be a part of a program that either introduces them to the sport or allows them to continue playing a sport they love, you realize you're part of something bigger.
"They're part of our community. If we can brighten their day for one day, we're happy to do it. I'm excited to see them all out here with smiles on their face."
From the families in the stands to the kids on the ice, everyone left with a smile on their face. "That's why it's important to us and important to the Ducks just to give these kids a couple hours of fun in their lives," said Hudella. "That's why we do this."