Seven years ago, Prince George, British Columbia, native Glen Bueckert and his wife, Lorrain, sold their small business and moved to Vancouver with the dream of starting a not-for-profit organization that would make hockey more accessible to kids all over the world. Thus, Youth With A Mission Hockey was born.
"So far we've been all across Russia, into Eastern China, through Finland, in Alaska and in Western Canada," Bueckert told NHL.com.
Since the Bueckerts established YWAM Hockey in 2005, they have facilitated hockey camps and clinics for thousands of kids who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to enjoy the hockey camp experience. In an upcoming trip to Russia, YWAM Hockey will play against and coach up to 1,000 players.
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"One big difference between YWAM Hockey and other hockey organization is that YWAM Hockey is run by volunteers, including my wife and I," Bueckert said. "Because we are volunteers, the main motive for us is that we love kids and we love hockey. We want to give kids the opportunity to experience a hockey camp. Our bottom-line motive is not financial, it's because we love the kids."
Typically, YWAM Hockey tours Western Canada each summer, putting on week-long hockey camps coached by a team of volunteer coaches. Since 2005, the summer tour has stopped in Calgary, Grande Prairie, Vancouver, Prince George, Kelowna and Vancouver Island. Last summer, they added Harbin, China, to the summer camp circuit, bringing a small group of volunteer coaches all the way to Eastern Asia. The group's global efforts don't end there.
In the winter months, YWAM Hockey oftentimes brings a team of young adults on a two-month trip to Russia where they play games against local teams and offer hockey clinics for the youth in smaller Russian communities. YWAM Hockey's philosophy is to never turn a child away for financial reasons, so they offer partial and full scholarships to all of their camps.
"It's all about the kids," Bueckert said. "YWAM Hockey is also about bringing God into the hockey community and exploring where our faith intersects with our passion for hockey."
Bueckert hopes to help young hockey players develop their skills on the ice as well as develop their character off the ice. It's a mission inspired by his own hockey background. Bueckert himself grew up on the ice, playing minor hockey in Prince George and junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League and Western Hockey League. He later discovered his passion for coaching and led the Prince George Spruce Kings to the BCHL Final before working at the Okanagan Hockey School for 10 years.
"We've been working at this for seven years and doors keep opening for us so we continue to walk through them and see where they lead," Bueckert said. "We feel incredibly blessed and fulfilled."