Belfast, Northern Ireland
HEROS runs two programs in Ireland and Northern Ireland and promotes the NHL’s ‘Hockey is For Everyone’ message. The Irish initiative partners with the National Hockey League Players Association to send hockey equipment to Belfast and runs programs for youth from Dublin and Belfast who are from economically-challenged neighbourhoods. Given Ireland's history the message that Hockey is For Everyone carries added meaning in that through hockey, people of diverse political and religious backgrounds can play together.
The girls and boys from Belfast have come from the high-risk high-piority neighbourhoods of East Belfast, West Belfast, and the Short Strand as well as Holywood. Specifically they are from East Belfast Alternatives, The Bridge Youth Club, Doyle Youth Club, Walkway Community Association, Ballynafeigh Community Association, the Holywood Hub and Corpus Christi Youth Club. Since 2008, HEROS has worked with over 70 girls and boys from these associations.
Belfast has been the hub of activity for the HEROS program since 2008 as it boasts two ice rinks; Dundonald Ice Bowl and the Odyssey Arena. In addition, Belfast is home to the pro ice hockey team, the Belfast Giants, who compete in the UK Super Elite League. The children are from various cultural and religious backgrounds and the HEROS provides them with an opportunity to meet each other in a neutral environment. In addition, the Belfast girls and boys play host to their fellow ice hockey teammates from Dublin.
The program continues to be supported by the George Best Foundation, Cooperation Ireland, the Belfast Giants Community Foundation and HEROS
Imagine every time you walked into a HEROS practice and you just knew this was what the kids have been waiting for all week! I just love coming to the rink and seeing how thankful the families are for giving their children an opportunity that otherwise might not have happened.If you asked a HEROS participant what their favorite part of the program was, most of them would say it was the people and not the hockey.
Tim Evason, Teacher, River Elms School