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New Jersey Youth Hockey Player Giving Back to Community

13-Year-Old Organizes Events to Raise Money for Those in Need

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Benjamin Handwerker has been involved with charitable causes for years.

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he organized Saves for Sandy to benefit those affected by the super storm. That was followed by Stops for Cops, which raised $2,500 that was donated to Westfield Local PBA 90 following the deaths of New York Police Department officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were killed in Brooklyn in late 2014.

It should be noted that Handwerker did all that before leaving elementary school.

Click to donate to the Spring Classic

Click to purchase tickets to the Spring Classic

"My mom and dad always said to do good things for people who are in need," said Handwerker, now 13, who lives in Westfield, N.J.

Handwerker is a goalie with the Cranford Hockey Club and a diehard Rangers fan. Last year, he mixed his love for hockey with his passion for helping those in his community when he founded a charity hockey game he dubbed the Spring Classic.

The game, held at Union Sports Arena where Handwerker has played since he was about 5, pitted the Westfield Police Department against its Fire Department, with proceeds going to the family of a Westfield Fire Fighter who passed away. Handwerker, a junior high schooler, raised more than $10,000.

Gavin Handwerker, Benjamin's dad, helped his son organize the event. A former public defender in the town, Gavin played hockey with several members of both the police and fire departments.

"We all got together and said hey let's do this," Gavin said.

The town came together to secure donations, whether it be uniforms for the game, raffle prizes and other items to raise money for the family. Union Sports Arena donated the ice for the game and supplied referees.

"It was just one of those things that spread through word of mouth," he said.

Fast forward to this year, and the Spring Classic is back for year No. 2. This time around, Benjamin is raising money for Tara Hannan, a Rahway Police Officer who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer. The game is scheduled for June 2 at Union Sports Arena, and as of writing, has already raised nearly $2,000 of its $25,000 goal.

"When it came to this year," Benjamin said, "we did it so we can pay off the medial bills so she can have more time to spend with her family and hopefully win against the battle."

Organizing an event like this is a lot for anyone. But Handwerker doesn't appear to be satisfied.

Instead, he's begun collecting hockey equipment to be donated to those who cannot afford it to help them learn the game he loves.

"If we can get some people to donate hockey equipment and we can give it to kids who want to play hockey or learn how to play or skate in general, we should," he said.

Hockey, according to Gavin, is at the root of Benjamin's charitable endeavors. He said he would bring Benjamin and his two other children every year to the Rangers' Toys For Tots event to show the importance of giving.

"We'd always tell the kids if there's someone in need, it's important to give back to others because you never know the impact that's going to have on someone's life," Gavin said.

Benjamin, who said he's received support from his teammates and coaches, certainly isn't like most kids his age, and he knows it. But with that said, he wants to show others that they can get involved in helping those who need it no matter their age.

"I just want to make a difference," he said. "I just want to show that me being a 13-year-old kid can get this much support from the community. It's not about me. It's about the person I'm trying to help. For some reason, I've always had this thing that when something bad happens, it gets me worried and I want to do something to help."

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