The Sharks Foundation was excited to honor a variety of heroes during January's Heroes Appreciation campaign. The celebration started on January 5 when the Sharks Alumni Foundation served as the 50/50 Raffle presented by Black Oak Casino Resort beneficiary.
As Bay Area hockey heroes supporting youth sports, the Alumni Foundation aims to bridge the gap for adolescents who are interested in participating in sports, but do not have the financial resources to do so. Former Sharks players Douglas Murray, Scott Hannan and Jonathan Cheechoo sold raffle tickets along the Concourse in support of the Alumni Foundation's mission to strengthen the local youth sports community.
Then on January 14 the Sharks Foundation and Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell visited Operation Freedom Paws in San Martin. During the visit the group toured the facility, observed a service dog training class and interacted with the non-profit's veteran and disabled clientele. Operation Freedom Paws had the opportunity to showcase the assistance the dogs provide their owners, including a range of emotional support techniques, such as helping them stay calm and focused, or alerting them to danger, which ultimately restores their freedom to live life independently. In addition to the visit, the Sharks Foundation paid homage to these four-legged heroes and their trainers by making Operation Freedom Paws the 50/50 beneficiary for the Sharks home game the very next day.
Later that month, the Sharks Foundation completed a legacy project to commemorate the 2019 All-Star Game, which was hosted in San Jose. In partnership with the National Hockey League, SAP, the San Jose Parks Foundation and the City of San Jose, the Sharks Foundation refurbished an outdoor rink at Roosevelt Park in the heart of downtown San Jose. The NHL, Sharks Foundation, and SAP collectively donated $500,000 for much-needed upgrades, making the project the second-largest contribution in the Foundation's history.
Construction efforts spearheaded by the City of San Jose included a brand-new, all-weather floor (conducive for both street and roller hockey), bleachers, dasher boards and chain link fencing. Funding will also be allocated to new and existing hockey programming at the rink, in addition to scholarships for local youth so they can participate at no charge. The rink will increase access to the game of hockey for community members year-round, particularly with future improvements, such as lighting to enable play during evening hours.
To commemorate the rink's completion, all entities and 25 students from Piedmont Middle School and Noble Elementary School participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony on January 24. Councilmember Raul Peralez, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Hockey Hall of Famer and NHL Diversity Ambassador Willie O'Ree, San Jose Sharks Presidents Jonathan Becher and Jonathan Tortora, Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson as well as Sharks Captain Joe Pavelski and the other Sharks All-Star selections Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were all in attendance as the renovated space was unveiled.
NHL partner Franklin Sports generously donated Sharks-branded gear including: 280 sticks, 24 goalie sticks, 12 sets of goalie equipment (masks, chest protectors and pads), hockey nets and street hockey balls. After the ribbon cutting, the new equipment was broken in when the Sharks, Avalanche, Blues and Devils mascots dropped the ceremonial "puck" and the kids enjoyed an impromptu game with the Sharks players in attendance.
The Sharks Foundation highlighted Goals for Kids beneficiary Racing Hearts throughout the month. Funds provided to Racing Hearts at the conclusion of the 2018-19 hockey season will support its efforts to outfit 150 City of San Jose police car patrol units with a lifesaving AED machine, providing these officers with more tools to continue the heroic work they do on a day-to-day basis.
In total the Sharks Foundation dedicated $515,155 in funding and impacted 1,251 lives during the month of January.
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