Rotaract hockey team scores a goal for polio
Garrett Windle (left), a member of the Rotaract Club of the Athlete Village and captain of the Twin Cities Northern Lights junior hockey team, participates in a ceremonial puck drop before an exhibition game in February to raise funds for polio eradication. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Smith
A junior hockey team made up of U.S. Rotaractors scored a goal for polio eradication by raising thousands of dollars for Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge.
The Twin Cities Northern Lights hockey team, a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, traveled to British Columbia, Canada, to play five exhibition games against Canadian hockey teams before February's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The team comprises members of the Rotaract Club of the Athlete Village, Minneapolis-St. Paul. Half of the admissions proceeds from the exhibition games supported Rotary's challenge, and the other half benefited the local Canadian Rotary clubs that sponsored the exhibitions, which were played in different communities in British Columbia. The team also raised money through the sale of hockey jerseys, temporary tattoos for fans, and special events during the games.
Some of the fans had their pinkies dyed purple to raise awareness of polio eradication. Purple dye is used to mark the fingers of children who have been immunized during National Immunization Days.
The Rotaractors also promoted literacy and health education among schoolchildren in the communities where they played. In addition, during a stay in Vancouver, the team and coaches participated in events associated with the Olympic torch relay and took part in volunteer activities for the Winter Games.
Sports and service
Team owner and trip coordinator Stephanie Smith, a member of the Rotary Club of Bloomington-Daymakers, founded the Rotaract club with the goal of bridging sports and community service.
"Our team's mission, not only during the Olympic trip but throughout the whole year, is to foster goodwill and to help build better communities using sports," says Smith, who was an athletic trainer at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. "We're demonstrating a model for mobilizing sports teams to accomplish the worthy causes led by Rotary clubs worldwide."
"We're about hockey first. We enjoyed the international competition," says Rotaractor and team captain Garrett Windle. "But we're about service too. The trip was packed with service opportunities, and Rotary helped open those doors. I'm glad we could help bring awareness about polio and the good Rotary is doing."
Smith's mother, who is a polio survivor, joined the trip and visited clubs to share her story.
"She gave a personal voice to what we are trying to accomplish," says Smith. "It was important for her to remind Rotarians of the urgency of completing Rotary's goal of ending polio."
Rotaract club president Steve Dus says the trip was an eye-opener for everyone.
"Although we've heard many times about polio, meeting Stephanie's mom and hearing about the challenges she faced strengthened our resolve to do our part to help eradicate this crippling disease," he says.
The hockey team aims to raise $30,000 this year for polio eradication.
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