Monday evening was a win-win situation for Penguins players and fans alike.
Nine players – Pascal Dupuis
, Tyler Kennedy
, Eric Godard, Arron Asham
, Mike Comrie, Ben Lovejoy
, Alex Goligoski, Mark Letestu and Chris Conner – signed autographs at three one-hour sessions to raise money for the YMCA Junior Penguins program presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Trib Total Media.
Wristbands were presold for each session, which all took place at Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Mall in Robinson.
“It’s totally different,” Chris Mukina said of getting to meet Dupuis, Godard and Kennedy in person at the first session. “It’s fun. I’m glad that they do things like this. It’s really awesome.”
“I’m a huge Penguins fan,” youngster Brennan Doyle said while waiting in line to meet those same three players. “I really like all these players. It’s just a really good opportunity to meet them. I’m really excited. My favorite player to meet would probably be Dupuis, just because I really like the way he plays.”
Dupuis said he was having just as much fun as Doyle was.
“It’s fun to do,” Dupuis said of the event. “It’s kind of touching, actually, when somebody asks you for your autograph. You kind of have to pinch yourself sometimes, that everybody’s in line to get your autograph.”
And that interaction is what it’s all about.
“It’s an opportunity for our players to get to interact personally with some of our fans, and some of our fans to meet some of our players in person too,” said Jill Shipley, director of fan development and special events for the Penguins. “It’s a win-win situation, and it’s for a great cause, which is the ultimate goal here.”
This is the sixth year the Penguins have hosted the fundraiser. And getting the players involved has helped raise awareness, spurring significant growth.
When the YMCA Junior Penguins program first began, it had around 600-700 kids participating. Now there is a total of 52 different locations that have about 3,000 children involved, according to Bruce Berringer, executive director of the North Boroughs YMCA.
“When we have an event like this, it’s twofold,” he said.
“Obviously there’s funds that get raised, and that supports the program for the kids to get shirts, sticks, trophies and things like that. But from the awareness side of things, I think anytime the Penguins themselves, the fans, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Trib Total Media all get involved, it just raises the awareness and really allows us to reach into the community and impact more kids.”