BERWICK, NS – The Valley Wildcats are giving back, and people are taking notice.
Each player is involved with a different activity, including breakfast programs, free skates, library readings and others.
It’s a first for many of the young players, who’ve all jumped at the opportunity to help out and get involved in the town of Berwick.
“We enjoy this just as much as the kids we volunteer with do. Working with them and seeing how excited they get is awesome,” says player Tarek Paranica.
Getting out into the community
General manager Nick Greenough partnered with Community Outreach Coordinator Trina MacDonald to develop the new strategy for volunteering around Berwick, where the team is based.
Though each player is kept busy with things like school, practice and training, they’ve each taken on projects.
The players have volunteered at the Berwick and District School’s breakfast program, its afterschool program, at the library for readings with kids, and at Berwick minor hockey practices.
They also spend time with students in the classroom, and will soon be back to Grand View Manor.
“We wanted to become more active in the community. It’s also about being positive role models, and our guys are doing a great job,” says Greenough.
Affecting the community has an effect on players
Players like Paranica, who’s been with the team since fall 2016 and volunteers with a grade 3 class and the afterschool program, enjoy seeing how excited the kids get.
Last week, he helped his students out with a town-wide scavenger hunt, and says he had a blast.
“They shout, ‘hey Tarek!’ and are always so pumped. We play, do arts and crafts, and it’s so much fun. It’s nice to see how they look up to us,” he says.
Teammate Matthew Hermary is in his first year with the team and volunteers on ice with Berwick novice and peewee teams, helping with drills and working with individual players on their skills.
His volunteering also includes playing cops and robbers with the kids after practice.
“It’s great when you see them improve after working with them, and also when you get to let loose like that. The kids love it, and so do we, since that’s fun no matter how old you are,” he says.
Proud of the players
MacDonald is proud to see the boys – some of whom are as young as 16 – taking it all in stride.
Just last week, she was at a game where they went up into the stands to console a young fan who was upset after her favourite player was injured in a game last week.
“It really tugs at my heartstrings when I see the boys take that extra step. It’s just so sweet,” said MacDonald.
The community is not the only entity benefitting from this – the players themselves are also learning a lot, says Greenough.
“A lot of them never saw themselves as role models, but our guys are really embracing this. People are now looking up to them, and it’s a win-win for everyone,” he says.