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Snider Hockey: Serving Communities, Reinforcing Principles Amid Pandemic

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainties in every facet of society. In the 15 years since the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation was created by its late namesake, the organization has never experienced more profound challenges in meeting its mission statement of serving youngsters from low-income and at-risk communities through providing access to ice hockey, supplying supplemental educational services, life skills mentorship and enrichment opportunities outside the classroom and off the ice; all free to the more than 6,000 participants. These serves are more vital than ever because underprivileged communities have been disproportionately affected adversely by the pandemic. 

Throughout the pandemic, Snider Hockey has launched a variety of creative ways to serve its participating student-athletes and their communities. Right from the outset ln March of 2020, Snider Hockey adopted virtual learning, with 75 virtual programming sessions every week within their hockey, education, life skills, and post-secondary preparation services. As the pandemic evolved, hybrid learning models and virtual sessions have continued.More than 5,200 virtual education sessions have been held, and nearly 1,100 students have participated. Additionally, crisis managers have provided direct service to more than 70 families experiencing homelessness, unemployment, food insecurity, and other pandemic-related emergencies.

The charity organization has also continued to maintain its traditional symbiotic ties with the Philadelphia Flyers organization and the Philadelphia Flyers Alumni Association, along with individual Alumni who have generously given of their time and provided financial support to Snider Hockey including Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and Bernie Parent. Snider Hockey board members include the likes of Flyers President of Business Operations and alternate governor Valerie Camillo, executive vice president and general counsel Phil Weinberg (who also serves as Snider Hockey's secretary and legal counsel), senior advisor Paul Holmgren, and Flyers Alumni Briere and Timonen. Comcast Spectacor Chairman and CEO Dave Scott and longtime Flyers fan favorite Wayne Simmonds (now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs) are board members emeriti. 

"I have said this before many times, but Snider Hockey represents everything Mr. Snider stood for," said Brad Marsh, the Flyers Alumni Association president and the Flyers' director of community development. "I am sure he'd be proud to see how Snider Hockey has continued to shape lives and make a positive impact on the community in the years since his passing. To us, as Flyers Alumni, supporting Snider Hockey has been a way to say thank you to him for all he did for us and our families, and also for us to pay it forward to the community."

In July 2020, the Flyers Alumni and Snider Hockey jointly promoted a virtual wine-tasting event called "A Night Out... at Home", featuring a host of Flyers Alumni including Briere, Hartnell, Chris Pronger, Bill Clement, Marsh, Bob Kelly, Steve Coates and others joining Snider Hockey donors in sampling pre-ordered wines along with certified sommelier Jimmy Quayle. All event proceeds went to Snider Hockey. 

In August, the annual Bernie Parent Fishing Tournament for Snider Hockey was transformed from a one-day gathering into a month-long virtual edition, and renamed accordingly to the Virtual Fishing Tournament. Anglers compete for prizes in salt water and fresh water across the entire Mid-Atlantic region for the benefit of Snider Hockey.

Over the summer, Snider Hockey launched its own version of a "Return to Play" plan. In conjunction with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, a phased reopening began at four rink locations utilized by Snider Hockey in the City of Philadelphia, beginning with Scanlon and Laura Sims, followed by Simons and Tarken. 

These programs and services barely scratch the surface of the ways that Snider Hockey has met the challenge of program support and delivery logistics amid the complications caused by the pandemic. For a more in-depth look at how Snider Hockey responded and adapted to the pandemic, click here.

The bottom line: There is a 99.5 percent grade-to-grade promotion rate for students enrolled in Snider Hockey programs, a 75 percent rate of student-athletes earning all As and Bs in a given report card period, a 97% rate of program graduates pursuing secondary education and/or who have moved on to higher level hockey programs.Some 1,464 Snider Hockey student-athletes are participants in after-school athletic programs. In terms of reflecting the diversity of the City population and directly serving students from low-income neighborhoods, 80 percent of enrollees come from low-income areas and minority students served across all Snider Hockey programs comprise 68 percent. Within the past year, 173 new female student-athletes enrolled. 

As Snider Hockey president and CEO Scott Tharp notes, hockey is the hook but education and opportunity is its heart and soul. While hockey remains a passion for most of the participants beyond graduation, playing the sport becomes a lesser part of their everyday lives. Snider Hockey teaches hockey skills but it, more importantly, teaches life lessons, reduces the opportunity gap and fosters happier, more productive lives.

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