Though the HEROS program is operating differently this year, Mena Westhaver, the lead on-ice instructor for the Victoria B.C chapter is proving that despite challenges, positive things can still happen. Normally the Victoria chapter hosts 32 players and 15 volunteers, however, to ensure the safety of our players and volunteers that number was reduced to 16 players and four volunteers. Currently the Victoria chapter is the only HEROS program to offer on-ice instruction due to regional restrictions for youth sports groups in other provinces but even in this challenging time, these on-ice players and volunteers have forged an even stronger bond, a true HEROS family.
One of the things HEROS tries to instil in our players and community is perseverance and to succeed in whatever they put their mind to. Mena is no stranger to utilizing creativity to overcome adversity, especially when it comes to pursuing her passion for hockey and teaching what she’s learned to players on the ice.
Mena has been an instructor with various hockey schools for 30 years and she brought her compassion, commitment and expertise to HEROS when she joined us over two years ago. She began as a community volunteer building relationships with the HEROS players and providing on-ice support. Calling on Mena’s years of experience with hockey instruction, Norm approached Mena about leading an on-ice session, which Mena was more than happy to do.
Years ago, Mena sustained damage to her vocal cords and one of the tools Mena uses during her on-ice instructions is a cordless microphone. “It’s a great way to communicate with the kids,” says Mena, “I can talk to someone from down one end of the ice to the other, they can hear me no matter where they are. You can call their name out if you see them doing something fantastic and they feel special. It’s also great for kids with other challenges so they can hear you clearly…despite the adverse situation it’s been the best thing for all the groups that I work with. Pre-COVID we would chant our HEROS behaviours I would let them chant into the mic which was super fun for the kids.”
Mena’s love and admiration for her line of work is evident on the face of every smiling player, it’s in the joy in her voice when she speaks about a player scoring a goal or doing something in which they never thought they could. The importance of fun builds bonds between HEROS and our volunteers, making way for meaningful connections and a lot of smiles along the way. Mena explains, “the best thing is watching their confidence grow, seeing their smiles, seeing them come on and tell you about something they got to do today at school, or they’ll tell me what they’re going do after HEROS, it’s really cool just being a part of their lives.”
Volunteers like Mena continue to go above and beyond for our players and set an example of how to live out our HEROS values. Fun, as well as safety and wellbeing, is a key focus for all our programs and is one of the reasons we have such a positive influence in the communities we operative in.
“HEROS is a safe place, it provides a feeling of security, the players are surrounded by people who believe they can do anything and you can see their self-esteem blossom, and that’s what the ice always gave me. And these players reminded me of the gifts the ice has given me, they were given an opportunity they never had, it was a safe place to play and they were accepted for doing what they were doing at the level that they were at, they were accepted for being them.”
Find out more in this profile of the Victoria Chapter from CBC sports and Canadian Tire Jumpstart.