Coyotes proud to announce launch of Angels for Higher program
A decade ago, Robert Hendershot had a dream: A more fulfilling job and purpose for his bubbly and ambitious son with Down Syndrome.
Ten years later, the most popular members of the Los Angeles Angels organization might be Mike Trout, Shohei Otani…and Trevor Hendershot.
After years stocking shelves at a drug store understanding it might be the employment ceiling, Trevor has been the Official Team Shop Greeter at Angels Stadium of Anaheim since 2012 and has expanded his job portfolio to include similar gigs with the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Rams, and USC Trojans.
“Trevor is in charge of high fives, getting the ‘Let’s Go Angels’ chant going and making everyone feel great,” Robert said of his 31-year-old son. “He is so popular; the team shop puts out a sign letting people know if he’s taking a night off. Otherwise, they would spend a lot of time answering the same question.”
And while Trevor is doing his thing, Robert has taken his dream nationwide, establishing program called Angels for Higher which links local individuals with Down Syndrome – a genetic disorder that causes lifelong mental disability and developmental delays – with college and professional sports teams looking for enthusiastic workers who just want a chance to contribute.
Last week, the Arizona Coyotes became the fourth NHL team and the first in Arizona to join forces with Angels for Higher. While the Coyotes faced the league’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, six new employees with Down Syndrome reported for work at Gila River Arena, with new jobs ranging from food service to community impact to replicating Trevor’s job at the team shop.
The Coyotes will have the most Angels for Higher employees of all the teams in the program and are excited to welcome their new members of the family.
Coyotes team president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez felt it was a perfect mesh with the team’s overall culture of inclusion at every level.
“It is a perfect example of who we want to be – an organization that welcomes everyone to make their contribution to make us open to our fans and an asset in the community,” Gutierrez said. “Leveraging the platform of sports to make a difference in people’s lives is important, and this program is a perfect vehicle for that.
President of business operations, strategy and development Pat Murphy approached Gutierrez with the idea of joining Angels for Higher and a face-to-face meeting helped ice the deal.
“We had a chance to invite Robert and Trevor to a game here and it was a great experience. I told him I tried to come and see him at an Angels game and get a picture, but the line was too long!”
Gutierrez said several of the new Coyote “Highers” are also big sports fans, but that wasn’t the primary prerequisite.
“As I’ve said before, we are in the memory making business, and to invite new workers who are also excited about being at a hockey game is an extra positive,” he said. “We look forward to having these great people with different abilities interact with our employees and fans at the game.”
After growing the program to 30 workers among eight teams, the 2020 pandemic left arenas empty and threatened to extinguish the momentum. But the popularity has only grown in 2021 with 20 different teams, including the Coyotes, now putting 50 people with Down Syndrome to work and helping to bring back the energy along with the crowds.
“There’s no doubt that everybody wins,” Robert said. “Our Angels are doing something incredible, and the teams and the fans of the team are given a great gift in getting to know these wonderful people.
Trevor Hendershot was the trailblazer. And getting that initial interview with the Angels wasn’t easy.
“It was easier not to deny an interview than it is to tell someone like Trevor that you aren’t going to give them a chance, so I was shocked when we made it through the door,” Robert said. “But when we did. Trevor took over.”
Trevor knew all the players on the Angels – their star at the time, Albert Pujols, also had a daughter with Down Syndrome – and he even knew the players from the 2002 championship team. He said he would work as hard at this job as he did stocking shelves.
“An hour into the interview, the team shop manager said it had gone 55 minutes longer than he had intended. But he had a background in retail and said what you can’t teach a prospective employee is a great smile, attitude and personality and Trevor had all that and more.”
Trevor walked out the door with a job. And a movement was born. The success of the program is overwhelming to the Hendershot family — especially for dad.
“Every father dreams of his son becoming a success in business or a famous athlete and that moment he is born is something you remember forever,” Robert said. “And then the doctor meets with you and ask you if you know what Down Syndrome is and everything changes. It’s devastating. At first you ask, ‘Why me?’ I felt like I didn’t deserve this.
“But now 31 years later, after this journey with Trevor, I say “Why me and why did I deserve this?’ for a completely different reason. It’s been amazing and to see him living his best life and being a part of that more than I ever imagined.”
(November 10, 2021)