For HEROS, diversity and inclusion isn’t an afterthought, it’s a commitment. Anyone who has visited a HEROS session, attended an event with the HEROS community is welcomed immediately. Each moment is a chance to connect and bring everyone together through sport. Hockey, a global game, goes beyond just pucks and sticks. It has the ability to act as a glue binding us together, which is a core component of National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Goals and Dreams Fund, the philanthropic arm of the NHLPA.
The NHLPA Goals and Dreams fund was established in 1999 and since then has donated over $25 million in 34 countries, giving over 85,000 kids access to hockey and hockey initiatives. One focus of the Goals and Dreams Fund is the distribution of hockey equipment to programs it serves, including our very own HEROS programs. The NHLPA has been a supporter and partner of HEROS since our inception 21 years ago. Chris Campoli, long-time NHL player who played for nine seasons and is now the Divisional Player Rep for the NHLPA, was introduced to HEROS in 2017 when he bumped into founder Norm Flynn on vacation. What began as an hour-long conversation grew into an important partnership for HEROS, according to Chris “we (the NHLPA) aligns with groups that truly want to continue and see this through, continue to help the kids make an impact. Those are the types of organizations we’re aligning with. HEROS checks a ton of boxes.”
The Goals and Dreams Fund supports and partners with a wide variety of programs including Indigenous communities, local police departments, military veteran family supports and of course grass roots organizations like HEROS. Each of these programs offers an “inclusive and safe environment, so the kids walk away with a meaningful experience.” Chris reiterated the importance of investing in programs that take a long term vested interest in the communities and people they support. Each program gives kids an opportunity to be part of a team and be something bigger than themselves.
“There’s a lot of good in doing the right thing, and helping kids that wouldn’t have the opportunity to play the game…and experience what some of what our guys get to do every day” Chris says.
The Goals and Dreams initiative allows NHL players the opportunity to be active within their communities and create positive change. While the criteria for programs to be a part of the Goals and Dreams community is dependent on many factors, many of the programs are advocated by NHL players themselves. When Chris visited the Surrey, BC chapter of HEROS, it was clear how much passion and dedication those connected with the program poured into it. Any person who has visited a HEROS session or attended an event with the HEROS community is welcomed immediately.
For Chris, the recent partnership with Sonnet Insurance has been an incredible opportunity to connect NHL players with kids using Zoom calls and maintain interaction during Covid. Acknowledging the difficult times that many are facing as a result of the pandemic, Chris admits that the opportunity to connect with youth players all over North America may not have been available had it not been for the circumstances. Highlighting the importance that even in our darkest times some beauty can emerge from it.
Sponsors like the NHLPA Goals and Dreams fund are a significant part of why HEROS is able to exist and offer the same consistency and dedication in each one of its chapters. Though hockey is a big part of HEROS and the NHLPA, it is truly the love for the community that makes the partnership successful.