AHU’s Pee Wee Black team finds off-ice outreach rewarding
For the Arizona Hockey Union’s Pee Wee Black team, implementing a new team building activity such as giving back to the community has been a key component to the program this season.
Head coach Chris Rees and assistant Scott Wallis want the players to understand hard work goes beyond hockey and this has been evident in the team participating in charity work all around the Phoenix area.
“The club is very proud that this group is taking the time and effort to participate in several community projects,” AHU president Stacy Shupe said. “Hockey is a privilege to play. All kids need to know that there is much more out there.”
The team practices 3-4 nights per week and takes part the volunteer work whenever time allows. Rees and his wife, Bonnie, began researching ways to volunteer, and Bonnie has started planning charity events for the team to participate in.
“With a lot of these kids, they don’t realize how much money their parents are putting into the sport for them to do what they do,” Chris Rees said. “There are league fees, travel expenses, tournaments. Getting them to help elsewhere and help the less fortunate – they get to share their team atmosphere with people who are in need.”
“I think it’s fun to bond with my team and help people in need at the same time,” Pee Wee Black player Trevor Rees noted.
The team has participated with Feed My Starving Children, an organization whose vision is to end childhood hunger around the world, and packaged food for the charity.
“The charity did a good job of spelling stuff out to the team – where the food is going, how much people will eat per day, how many meals is one package for one person,” Wallis said. “It was definitely eye-opening and the team realized there are other things happening around them, no matter how much they have going on in their own lives.”
Pee Wee Black player Manu Carrasco enjoyed the experience of volunteering.
“I know that I am helping people for a good cause,” Carrasco said. “It helps that we’re helping others and it gives us a team-bonding factor, which helps us become a better overall team.”
Back in October, the Pee Wee Black group participated in the ALS Arizona Walk (pictured), running a booth where people created signs to walk with to show who they are supporting. Currently, the team is working with Friends For Life, a no-kill animal shelter, participating in the food and supply drive for the animals.
“Helping people and animals is helping yourself,” said Pee Wee Black player Nick Hemersbach. “We need more of this.”
The team has already planned some volunteer events for 2016. In January, the team will help Together We Rise, where they will make supply duffle bags, or “sweet cases” as the charity calls them, for foster kids.
“I like the team effort to help and give back to the community,” Pee Wee Black player Thane Brown said.
“I have learned that all the volunteering we have done puts a huge effect on people and their families,” added teammate Kenny Keyannie
Pee Wee Black’s coaches even plan on the team to give back to the hockey community. The team will join the Arizona Coyotes’ “Little Howlers” program, where kids are able to try out hockey for the first time for free.
“We have our kids help with this because most of our team went through that program,” Wallis said. “But it’s to gain a better awareness – to give back to the community. “
Both coaches want their team to have a greater perspective on life and to always remember to give back in one way or another.
“It’s almost required for these kids to volunteer so they better understand,” Chris Rees said. “It’s all been a big learning experience for them.”
Pee Wee Black player Cameron Lowe said volunteering is a win-win situation.
“I like the best that I am helping those in need and spending time with friends,” said Lowe.
— Katy Wolpoff