Craig Heisinger, Senior VP & Director, Hockey Operations/Assistant General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets & Manitoba Moose, also known as "Zinger" was invited to speak at 20th Anniversary PHATS/SPHEM (Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society / Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers) Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. Zinger has been an advocate for the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation's (WJTNF) mental health program, Project 11. Project 11 was created in honour of Zinger's close friend, Rick Rypien. Zinger shared his heartfelt story about his friendship with Rypien and emphasized the importance of reaching out when experiencing a challenging time in life. "You will never be a burden" is Zinger's powerful message. One in five Canadians will develop a mental illness at some time in their lives and no one should suffer in silence.
Over 200 people were honoured to attend Zinger's presentation. Zinger started off his professional career as an equipment manager, which has made him quite the idol in the industry. Audience members expressed that Zinger's presentation connected with them on both a professional and personal level. Many introduced themselves to Zinger, shared their stories, thanked him for coming to talk about such an important issue, and for his candidness about his friendship with Rypien.
Suzi Friesen, Director of Project 11 also attended the presentation and was on hand to provide further information on Project 11, help answer questions, and pass out Project 11 memorabilia.
Rypien's desire to help kids and offer mental health education so that no one would continue to suffer the way he did touched many in the audience. Both the PHATS and SPHEM organizations appreciated the presence of Project 11 at their annual conference and hope that Zinger's message continues to spread. Organizers and attendees were happy to hear that the WJTNF is creating a meaningful program that will have a long-term positive impact on adolescents.
Some vital skills practiced in Project 11 are resiliency, and feeling comfortable/proud of being in your own skin. In middle years especially, some students deal with low self-esteem, and feeling stuck when life gets tough. Project 11 increases self-awareness, helps students find confidence within, and strengthens their classroom community- promoting healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
For more information on Project 11, please visit www.projecteleven.ca.