Mission Arizona programs continue to give back to community
The culture around the Mission Arizona hockey program is about more than winning.
In fact, it’s about more than being able to lace up your skates, strap on the gear and hit the ice.
“The most important thing our kids have to realize is that it’s not always going to be out them and that they have to give back,” Mission Arizona program director Jeremy Goltz said. “These kids are fortunate to play travel hockey and this is part of building character.
“It requires a lot to wear this jersey, but our guys do it with pride.”
As Mission Arizona prepares to drop the puck on its 10th season, players and coaches are still lending a helping hand around the Valley – with a pair of longtime initiatives and a new program.
Starting this fall, Mission Arizona’s Midget players will help out the in-house players at Arizona Ice Peoria.
“This is something that we’ve talked about and it’s always been good on paper,” Goltz said. “These are your kids who are just starting off and maybe aren’t advanced, but they are obviously playing and have a passion for the game.”
The Mission Arizona teenagers will help younger kids anywhere from five to 13 years old, attending practices and just getting to know those they likely see around the rink on a regular basis. Goltz explained that the hope is that there is a “seamless enrichment throughout the facility.”
“I think we’re going to show them that if they keep working hard then they can strive to do great things,” said Eddie Cannon, a defenseman on Mission Arizona’s 18U Red squad.
While the goal is to help teach the younger players on-ice skills and techniques, Goltz said he sees the mentorship program being a viable resource inside and outside the rink.
“If it trickles into off-ice (activities), then fantastic,” Goltz said. “That would certainly be the next step.”
While the in-house program is a new endeavor, the Mission Arizona program has long supported two other charitable events.
Each October, Mission Arizona players participate in Autism Speaks, an annual walk held at Tempe Beach Park (pictured above). Those within the program wear their jerseys and are usually one of the largest representing groups in attendance.
“That’s something that we always rally behind every year,” Goltz said. “We’re always a huge walking group and we’re very proud of that.”
“We do it for the families and raise awareness for them,” added Cannon. “We want to let them know that we are there for them.”
The Mission Arizona program also helps out the community at the end of the year in participating in the Bradley C. Downing III Memorial Toy Drive.
Downing grew up in the Valley and played for Goltz in the late 1990s at the University of Arizona. He passed away due to injuries sustained in a car accident in March of 2000 at the age of 18.
“He was a great kid,” Goltz said. “He came to practice and worked hard every day. It was obviously a terrible tragedy.”
Of all of the charitable and community work his players do, Goltz said the holiday toy drive, which assists local families in the Valley, means the most.
“I think it’s a great thing that we do,” Cannon said. “From an organizational standpoint, we’re like a family and we support each other, but we also want to support everyone else, too.
“It’s our mission to give back.”
— Eric Smith