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Snider Hockey Golf Outing a success

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

Matt Read took three swings of a golf club. On the third he fired a golf ball through a small pane of glass about 15 yards in front of his tee box. He was the first Flyer to break the glass (Michael Leighton and Ruslan Fedotenko were also successful) but it was this warm up that commenced the third annual Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation Flyers Celebrity Golf Invitational at Trump National Golf Course Tuesday.

Read was ho-hum about being the first to break the glass, and was also a bit modest about his golf game.

“I’m usually hit-or-miss,” he said. “Some days I drive well and don’t putt well, and then other days it’s the other way around.”

And while that sounds like the usual golfer’s lament, it turns out it was just Read being modest.

“The guy’s a player,” said Chris McElwee, co-chair of the event, who played the course with Read. “He shot even par. That’s pretty darn impressive for this course.”

Read still wouldn’t take credit for his game.

“It’s because we kept hitting from the spot of the best drive,” he insisted.

Modesty was probably the right way for Read to play it. After all, this wasn’t a golf event to highlight individual skills, but rather to raise money for a foundation that is making a big difference in Philadelphia and other nearby urban communities.

“This event has gotten bigger and better every year and I’m thrilled,” Flyers’ chairman Ed Snider said. “We do a lot of great things for these kids and we’re opening up our fifth rink next month.”

Opening and operating ice rinks in urban communities is just the first step in building a sturdy and successful branch of Snider Hockey. But to do that, the dollars need to come from somewhere – and a charity golf outing and auction like this one is critical to making that happen.

Snider Hockey confirmed Wednesday that this year’s event raised $1.2 million. The silent auction, which was done collaboratively through the foundation website and in person at the outing brought in $140,000.

The money raised includes money donated by Snider himself.

“I match most of what we bring in two-for-one,” Snider said.

It’s Snider’s commitment to making this foundation his legacy in the Philadelphia area that has allowed the foundation to grow substantially in such a short period of time.

“Things really fell into place for us,” Snider said. “Particularly when the city of Philadelphia decided to close several ice rinks and we stepped in and said we’d run them. That was the first step. The rinks were basically dilapidated, open-air rinks. We came in and matched a state grant of $6.5 million and now there are beautiful, magnificent rinks in the city.”

Spearheading the event were the three co-chairs – McElwee, Ron Caplan and Bill Whitmore, securing a spectacular golf course and working with the tireless Snider Hockey staff and the rest of the Celebrity Golf Invitational committee to provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as auction items.

“It’s amazing,” McElwee said. “It really has turned out to be a great event with all the players, coaches and volunteers. The turnout and the money we’re raising for youth hockey is amazing.”

Eleven current Flyers were in attendance, eight of which actually golfed. All of the Flyers coaches were also present as well as general manager Paul Holmgren, many of the broadcasters as well as Flyers alumni.

“This is such an important fundraiser for us,” Whitmore said. “With all the money raised and Mr. Snider’s match we’re able to raise a huge part of the operating budget each year. If it wasn’t for this tournament it would be very difficult to meet the annual budget.”

Whitmore was also excited that the growth of the tournament has been buoyed by repeat donors.

“The success of a tournament is that you get repeat business,” he said. “We get the same people back, the auction items were great ad we add new things every year. As of the day before the event, just in online bids alone we were $40,000 ahead of where we were last year.”

And Snider Hockey isn’t slowing down. The goal is to continue to grow and continue to get kids playing hockey in a safe environment where they can also learn life skills and succeed scholastically.

“I’d like to see it get to the point where it grows outside of the Philadelphia area,” Snider said. “But not as Ed Snider Youth Hockey. I’d like to see similar programs in other cities not that we would run but ones that other people would emulate.”

Snider added that several teams from around the NHL have come to Philadelphia to see how Snider Hockey operates and is thinking about doing something similar.

“When we see what’s happening with these kids it’s pretty incredible,” Snider said. “Our [graduation] rate is 96 percent when the general population rate [in Philadelphia schools] is somewhere in the fifties. Our kids are getting secondary education and going to college. It’s wonderful considering what these kids go through [in every day life] is pretty awful.

“I grew up in some rough neighborhoods that had gangs and got into some fist fights, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that you can get your head blown off with a gun. I was scared then; I can’t even imagine what it’s like now.”

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