By Ryan J. Harr
The Rochester Americans players, coaching staff and front office dedicated the month of December to giving back to the City of Rochester leading up to the Holiday Season, which the organization appropriately dubbed the “Amerks Month of Giving”.
READING POWER PLAY PROGRAM
In his second year with the Amerks, forward Kyle Criscuolo started got things going as he was a part of the “Reading Power Play”, now in its 14th year. The Amerks and the Monroe County Library System have partnered for the program, which is presented exclusively by Wendy’s. Criscuolo, along with The Moose, stopped by the Penfield Public library on Dec. 6 to read to kids, give a hockey demonstration and answer questions. Each appearance also features a raffle and an autograph session by the visiting player and The Moose.
WATCH: READING POWER PLAY
HOCKEY 101 AND SKATING 101
Newcomers Jack Dougherty and Brandon Hickey provided on-ice instruction with the on-ice portion of Hockey 101 and Skating 101 classes offered at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, the practice facility of the Amerks.
Earlier this season, the Amerks in conjunction with Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, announced a season-long partnership designed to help grow and promote the game of hockey at all levels.
“The partnership allows us to continue growing our entry-level hockey programming, which teaches hundreds of locals the greatest game on earth each year,” said Chris Woodworth, general manager of BGRI in November.
ROC HOLIDAY VILLAGE
While the Amerks paid a visit to the Syracuse Crunch on the second Saturday of December, members of the front office and The Moose attended the annual Roc Holiday Village event, during which they gave away tickets to those who participated in Scoro.
Roc Holiday Village is an annual winter festival held at Martin Luther King, Jr. Rink at Manhattan Square Park to bring magic to downtown Rochester for people of all ages every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of December leading up the Holidays.
WATCH: ROC HOLIDAY VILLAGE
SORTING DONATED FOOD AT FOODLINK
With Foodlink, a longtime partner of the Amerks, celebrating its 40th anniversary, the team held its annual food drive from Friday, Nov. 23 to Wednesday, Dec. 19. The team encouraged all fans to donate non-perishable food items over the month-long stretch in exchange for a complimentary ticket voucher to benefit Foodlink, the regional Food Bank.
Prior to completion of the food drive, several players and their significant others assisted in the sorting and packaging of apples at Foodlink’s warehouse on Mt. Read Blvd. in Rochester to be distributed throughout the arena.
“Doing something little like bagging apples, it’s nice to help out,” said Danny O’Regan. “We are lucky to be where we are right now and with people out there who are less fortunate as us, they deserve something, whether it be big or small.”
“Being a part of Rochester, no matter how long Danny’s career lasts, to be able to give back is pretty special,” said Taylor Blood, O’Regan’s girlfriend.
WATCH: FOODLINK VOLUNTEERING
HONORARY CAPTAIN OF THE GAME PROGRAM
Earlier this month, the Amerks and UR Medicine Golisano Children’s Hospital came together to present the Honorary Captain of the Game program, a season-long partnership that offers the unique opportunity of a lifetime for one child to take the ice with the Amerks and stand alongside the starting lineup during the playing of the national anthem prior to puck-drop.
“The measurement of a true, thriving community is reflected by how we care for our community members most at risk,” said Dr. Patrick Brophy, Pediatrician-in-Chief at UR Medicine Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Our strong and excellent sports teams have long contributed to improving the lives of children with health-related issues. We welcome and humbly look forward to our new kids’ honorary captain relationship with the Rochester Americans hockey team.”
WATCH: HONORARY CAPTAIN OF THE GAME
As the month progressed, the Amerks visited patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital and Unity Hospital to play holiday bingo and spread holiday cheer by way of delivering gifts and toys donated by State Farm that were collected during a recent Toy Drive through a partnership with the Pirate Toy Fund.
“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make these visits happen,” said Johanna Jennings, Inpatient Child Life Specialist at University of Rochester Medical Center. “But seeing this and kids running out of their beds and actually doing the treatments they need to do to get better, that is what it really is all about.”
“To come in to make them smile and make their day, it really goes a long way,” Criscuolo said. “We are pretty lucky to do what we do, so being able to come here and help them out is the least we can do.”
WATCH: AMERKS VISIT GOLISANO CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
PREPARING DINNER AT RONALD McDONALD HOUSE
Later that same night after visiting patients at the local hospitals, a handful of players and their significant others prepared dinner for the families at the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Rochester.
“It’s hard to explain what a home-cooked meal means to these families after spending an entire day at the hospital,” Dave Kelly, vice president of community engagement at the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Rochester said. “They have expressed how much how much they appreciate it on numerous occasions.”
“The community supports us and that is the reason we are able to be Rochester Americans,” said assistant captain Nathan Paetsch. “So, to be able to support them, it’s part of our jobs.”
“We are so lucky to be in a place like Rochester,” said Carrie Porter, wife of Amerks team captain Kevin Porter. “The community is a really special place that does a wonderful job supporting us.”
WATCH: RONALD McDONALD HOUSE
PARTNERSHIP WITH BOOSTER CLUB TO SPONSOR A FAMILY IN NEED
Every holiday season, the Rochester Americans Booster Club, in conjunction with the team’s current players, sponsors a family in need by purchasing gifts and other items. On Sunday, Dec. 16, forwards Kyle Criscuolo, Eric Cornel and Andrew Oglevie, in addition to a handful of significant others and members of the Booster Club, delivered the gifts to the family’s house and spent the morning visiting with them.
PIRATE TOY FUND TOY DRIVE
Later that same day, Criscuolo and his fiancé, Gaby Whitehouse, helped children and their families shop during the Pirate Toy Drive in the upper atrium of The Blue Cross Arena. The event provided toys to more than 6,000 kids over a four-hour span. To complete the toy collection, the Amerks held their own toy drive during their final two games before the Christmas break against the Hartford Wolf Pack. All fans who donated new, unwrapped received a complimentary ticket voucher.
Founded in 1995, the Pirate Toy Fund collects and supplies new toys year-round to over 70 agencies that provide aid and comfort to thousands of children in need throughout the Greater Rochester region. In 2016, the Pirate Toy Fund reached a milestone of giving away over 250,000 toys since its inception.