Tomorrow, January 11, the Carolina Hurricanes will visit several Triangle Area schools, businesses, day-care centers and hospitals for Canes in the Community Day. The project is part of the National Hockey League and its players’ on-going commitments to being active parts of their communities and positive role models and inspirations to children.
“Canes Community Day is basically an outgrowth of the annual hospital visits that NHL teams historically do each year,” said Mary Ann Baldwin, Director of Community Relations for the Hurricanes.
This year Hurricanes players will visit UNC Hospitals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke Children’s Hospital, Powell Elementary School, Wake Medical Center, SAS Institute’s day-care center, the Cary YMCA, Lacy Elementary School and other organizations.
“What we’ve done is branch out so that players are not only visiting area children’s hospitals but also visiting area schools and day-care centers and broadening their involvement in the community,” said Baldwin.
Carolina players Steve Halko, Dave Karpa, Tyler Moss and David Tanabe will visit Raleigh’s Lacy and Powell Elementary Schools to talk with children about the importance of reading and literacy. Hurricanes broadcasters John Forslund and Chuck Kaiton will join the players when they visit the schools.
“There are a lot of kids at Powell – it’s a magnet school, under-priviledged,” said Baldwin. “The school feels that that’s an important message for them.”
While many of the afternoon’s events focus on educating children and have players serving as positive role models, one event in particular will focus on simply having a good time and meeting the players.
“One that I’m really excited about is the Iceplex,” said Baldwin. “We have 12 kids from the Make a Wish Foundation coming in to skate with the Canes. Coach Maurice, Jeff O’Neill, Bates Battaglia and Rob DiMaio will be there. These 12 kids are going to come in, skate with the players and the players will sign autographs. The kids all had to write essays about why they wanted to meet the Canes. That’s pretty exciting.”
Veteran players Ron Francis and Glen Wesley will visit the Duke Children’s hospital to spread words of encouragement and support to the children receiving treatment there. Francis and Wesley have been heavily involved in charity works throughout their combined 32 seasons in the NHL. Both players host families of children who are undergoing treatment and spend extended periods of time in the hospital by providing luxury suites to Hurricanes games and meeting with the families after the games.
“Ron Francis and Glen Wesley are going over to Duke,” said Baldwin. “They both have an active involvement in Duke with the Ron Francis Night Out and Glen Wesley’s relationship with donating a luxury suite to the hospital.”
Over the years, the NHL has made a commitment to its communities and specifically targeted their community involvement at children who are under-privileged or sick.
“Part of the culture of the NHL is that players be involved in the community,” said Baldwin. “In particular, there’s an interest in children who are sick, hospitalized or have cancer. There’s a culture in the NHL of players getting involved with charities that benefit children. That is something that the players and coaches are interested in. There’s a soft spot in the hearts for the kids who need their support and encouragement.”
Baldwin likes what the Canes in the Community Day brings not only to the children and under-privileged but also what the event means around the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
“I think what this does for the organization is bring the hockey side and the business side together to go out and do something nice for the community, reach children with a positive message and get players out there,” said Baldwin. “It’s been a real challenge this year because of our schedule. We get requests all of the time and it’s impossible to honor all of them, so this is our way of making sure we’re doing the best we can to get the players are out there in the community and giving something back.”