Coyotes’ community involvement making difference around Valley
While the Arizona Coyotes may be traversing through a challenging season on the ice, there is no shortage of positive vibes coming from the organization.
It’s holiday time, and that means an emphasis on the Coyotes’ presence in the community. Since the team moved from Winnipeg to start the 1996-97 season, the Coyotes have maintained a high profile off the ice. No matter what time of the year, it’s always a good time to spread that holiday cheer.
Through a series of on-going programs and those catered to a specific criterion, the importance of events off the ice, and the opportunity to get “Howler,” the mascot, involved to help spread the goodwill represents the core design of the Arizona Coyotes Foundation.
Whether the Coyotes are reaching Phoenix Children’s Hospital with a signature program or helping to unveil a new dek hockey surface throughout the region, there is always welcome anticipation.
Therein lies the core of the Foundation.
“Our focus is to serve the children and service men and women in many different areas,” said Olivia Matos, who serves as the executive director of the Arizona Coyotes Foundation. “We serve in cultural events, the arts, sports, healthcare and education. Our goal as a hockey team is to be able to give back to the community, and do everything we can to focus on areas locally.”
“It’s about what can we do,” Matos added. “Whatever is asked, and whether it’s being present at an event, giving volunteer hours, helping an organization to get a little more noticed, putting out a special showing what an organization can do and its potential, doing videos, sharing with some of our other contacts, additional help during supply drives, we’re always ready.
“You name it, we’re more than happy to help.”
Most of the outreach programs are targeted toward nonprofits and how the image of a major sports franchise in a major metropolitan area can generate positive results.
Perhaps the Coyotes’ signature charity event is the celebrity waiters. Held each year at holiday time, this experience, held last month, brought head coach Rick Tocchet and players Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller and Max Domi to serve as waiters. All benefits support the Coyotes Foundation, and for several years, former captain Shane Doan was the face of this event.
Serving dinner and dessert may be a high-profile affair, Matos points out, but work in the community is carried on several levels.
First, there are in-kind donations that account for over 1,500 donations to nonprofits throughout out the calendar year. During the previous hockey season alone, these donations helped raise over $150,000 for Arizona’s nonprofits.
Then, there’s the Future Goals program. This is designed as an online initiative that uses hockey as a learning vehicle for students to apply real-world applications in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
At the same time, the Coyotes are involved improving literacy throughout the state of Arizona. The club introduced incentive-based reading programs, and supports existing reading curriculums in grades 2-4.
Together with volunteer and hospital visits, hockey school clinics, player appearances and youth hockey development, Matos says the Coyotes are as busy in the community as Tocchet and his staff are on the ice.
Despite struggles in the standings, Matos says she has not witnessed a decline of the Coyotes presence and interest for community events.
“I haven’t seen that yet,” she said. “There is such as need anyway. We have created such great relationships with our partners in the area that they know we’re here to help. Win or lose, there remains challenges in the things in which we raise money. Hockey is what it is, but what we do in the community continues. That’s whether we win or lose.”
— Mark Brown
(Jan. 9, 2018)