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Local fourth-grader offers services as coach

by James MacDonald / Minnesota Wild

The Sully Interview
Wild owner Craig Leipold pays a visit to ten-year-old Sully Casey, a candidate for the Wild's open head coach position

 Excerpt of Sully's letter

SAINT PAUL -- Wild owner Craig Leipold's already busy "offseason" became a little more interesting Tuesday. Leipold, intrigued by one particular resume submitted as application for the club's open head coaching position, decided to pay a direct visit to the resume's author ... at Horace Mann Elementary School in Saint Paul.

Ten-year-old Sullivan Casey, the president of Amy Kortuem's fourth-grade class, sent a letter to Wild executive Matt Majka not long ago with the following bullet-point credentials for his consideration: leadership skills, timeliness and public speaking ability. As the accompanying video piece supports ( click here or in the box to the right), "Sully" did not disappoint.

During the course of an interview held in front of his classmates, Sully performed better than admirably, generally impressing Leipold with his passion, polish and knowledge, while specifically stumping for such initiatives as "a little more offense." He also said he'd come cheap because, after all, he would be living with his parents.

We cannot say enough thank yous to the Wild organization -- to all their upper management, Craig Leipold, the Vice Presidents -- for allowing their employees time off during the work day to make a visit here to a Saint Paul school and make a difference in a student's life. - Amy Kortuem
Like most NHL coaches, Sully, a goaltender with his local youth hockey team, would be granted the offer to name his own staff, too. That staff would very likely include his dad, who has also served as Sully's coach since he started playing hockey four years ago.

Unlike most coaches, Sully, who dressed for the occasion with a jacket and tie, comes out of the Wild's "Wild Buddies" mentoring partnership with Horace Mann.

Mentor programs are fertile ground for a great deal of goodwill, learning, smiles and motivating both students and adults alike, but they are less commonly known for producing NHL head coaching candidates out of the fourth grade.

Still, the Wild Buddies program at Horace Mann is a significant undertaking. It involves Wild employees spending time with members of Korteum's class, who are surrounded during their days by books, craft and learning materials, a few computers and homemade mobiles. To be sure, it is a learning environment in the most practical and relevant expression of the term. Almost every wall, shelf, nook and cranny offers something to learn -- books are neatly alphabetized, sayings jump brightly across the walls, and shiny stars measure student progress.

Kortuem considers the Wild program an extension of it all.

"It's outstanding," Kortuem said of the program. "It's not just the kids who seem to be what some would consider to be at-risk youth that value from having another caring adult in their life. None of us can have too many caring adults in our lives. So some of the students that really benefit the most from their relationship with a Wild Buddy are not students you might think would need to rely on another adult to have success."

The organization has been involved with Saint Paul area schools since opening its doors, and, for the last three years has enjoyed a relationship with Horace Mann. Between 25 and 30 members of the office staff mentor grade school students anywhere from once per week to once per month, working on reading comprehension, language development and math skills.

On Tuesday, while a few of the Wild's mentors looked on during their regularly-scheduled visits, Sully made his own case for becoming the second head coach in franchise history.

"Sully is great," said one of his mentors, Wayne Petersen, who began participating in the Wild's program eight years ago. "He’s a charming, intelligent, witty young man."

Petersen, who works in the Wild marketing department, is among the many mentors who finds his contribution being fully repaid.

"It’s very rewarding to know that you can have a positive influence on a young person’s life," he said. "I’ve worked with some incredible kids over the years, all with different personalities and stories to share. Some are shy and others are more energetic, but they’re all wonderful in their own unique way."

Sully, answering Leipold's questions directly and easily, may have shined brightest on Tuesday, but in the tradition of the Wild, the franchise hopes all of its Wild Buddies students are stars of the future.
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