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The Charitable Side of Matt Cooke

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

From left to right: Dave Soltesz, Matt Cooke, Brad Henderson

Before practice on Thursday, Penguins winger Matt Cooke attended a church service at the arena ministered by team chaplain Brad Henderson.

After the service finished up, Cooke was touched and sincerely grateful when he learned that the team’s Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation would be donating the proceeds of a 50-50 raffle from this season totaling $15,000 – along with a $10,000 grant of their own for a total of $25,000 – to the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, a charity that Henderson is the president of and that Cooke is actively involved in.

Dave Soltesz, president of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, presented Cooke and Henderson with a check that morning.

Cooke traveled to Haiti for a humanitarian trip last August with Henderson through the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, which has been dedicated to helping orphans in the country devastated by an earthquake three years ago (full story on the trip here). Cooke has experienced their sobering living conditions, so he knows just how much this will help the children he spent time with and grew to love.

“I think it’s overwhelming, especially to have the support of the organization that employs me to stand behind me and get involved in the organizations that we’re involved with,” Cooke said. “The money that was raised, it goes without saying how much it means to not only the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, but their involvement in Haiti and what that can provide for kids without parents or a home down there.”

“It’s a very generous sum of money by American standards, but by Haitian standards, this will go a long, long way to take care of a lot of hungry, needy kids,” Henderson said. “So we greatly appreciate it. I can’t tell you how much

I appreciate Matt’s involvement in the Foundation and the support of the Penguins organization that they’re willing to do this for us.”

This generous, big-hearted and philanthropic side of Matt Cooke is one that the public rarely sees. But giving back and making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate is an essential part of his life.

Cooke was given the team’s Edward J. DeBartolo “Community Service” Award this year, which recognizes the player who has donated a tremendous amount of time and effort working on community and charity projects.

“Matt is unbelievable, and he is so appreciative,” Soltesz said. “As hard as he works on the ice is how he works with the various organizations he deals with. He is very, very much embroiled in supporting the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation. It’s a cause that was important to Matt and he works very hard to support that particular cause. Ergo, it was very important to us at the Foundation.”

Not only is Cooke involved with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation and their efforts in Haiti; he is also involved with the Light of Life rescue mission, which provides food and shelter for the homeless and hungry here in Pittsburgh, and he also works with the Ronald McDonald House, which provides families with a home away from home for seriously ill children receiving medical treatment. Not to mention Cooke is always one of the first players to volunteer for all of the team’s community initiatives.

“He doesn’t just go out there and do community work; he really loves what he’s doing,” Henderson said of Cooke. “He’s passionate about it and he wants to be there when he is doing community work. I think people sense that. I’ve seen Matt in a lot of different settings. He was great down in Haiti. He’s great with guys from Light of Life, local guys from Pittsburgh who are struggling as well. They just sense his genuine desire to get to know them, to care about them and to make a difference in their lives.”

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