Tony Wray’s day job may be as a Speech Pathologist for the Toronto District School Board, but his positive impact reaches well beyond the classroom. Tony began his journey with HEROS in 2009 as an extra set of hands on the ice to help with the program. He hadn’t set foot on the ice since he was 12, but right from the start he knew he had found a place where he could make a difference. His love of the game and the opportunity to help the very same students he saw every day made the HEROS program an ideal fit. The positive impact that HEROS has on youth in the community is something Tony acknowledges is invaluable- it allows the students to belong to something and grow personally. “While they’re actually doing the program they learn about responsibility, teamwork, accountability, and, probably one of the most important things in education today, it’s perseverance.”
Every June he attends various graduations and watches his HEROS kids walk across the stage to mark their academic accomplishment. The pride Tony has for the kids he works with both in the classroom and on the ice is evident – he admits that he brags about what the kids have done and what they’ve been able to accomplish on and off the ice.
Over the last decade, Tony has become more involved in the program and taken on more responsibility. He first moved up to manage the volunteer and mentoring program with the graduated All-Stars who give back to the program that gave them their start. It’s this aspect of HEROS that is truly special to Tony: watching the kids in the program grow, moving on to post-secondary education, and coming back to support the new crop of HEROS.Tony’s dedication to HEROS culminated in 2014 when he decided to take on the role of Coordinator of the Jane and Finch chapter of the Toronto HEROS program.
Tony sees the strength of HEROS originating from the ongoing support they provide to the kids well after leaving the program, and the positive energy those same kids put back into the program when they return as volunteers. The grassroots nature is not only what feeds the success of the overall program, but creates upstanding young men and women. “Investing in one kid might give them that first opportunity or might be that one thing that turns their life around,” says Tony. People like Tony are the boots-on-the-ground influencers of HEROS, taking time from their lives to positively affect our young HEROS.