When volunteer Kiera Meidinger speaks about HEROS, it’s easy to understand why she loves what she does. Keira, now a Vice-Principal at a special needs school in Alberta, began her journey with HEROS when she was just 19. At the time in 2007, she was a student at the University of Alberta when she discovered HEROS while attending a university career fair.
With previous experience coaching sports and a love for hockey and working with kids, Kiera couldn’t pass on the opportunity. “We say that we use hockey as a catalyst to teach life skills,” Kiera said. “When I met Norm [Flynn, President of HEROS], and he was just so passionate, it made it sound like an exciting opportunity.”
Kiera was and still is able to witness first-hand the impact HEROS has played in her community. Kiera says she was fortunate that she was able to play organized sports growing up. A positive benefit of HEROS is that no matter what “socioeconomic conditions” kids/players face outside in the world, they’re able to be in an arena for an hour, which “makes a huge difference in their lives,” according to Kiera.
Kiera remembers her first HEROS hockey session and the excitement that came along with it.
“[The kids] were so excited. It was just really cool to see kids that hadn’t really had opportunities to be part of a team or to play any kind of organized sports, and just been given equipment and have a chance to be on a team,” Kiera said. “It was a little bit of chaos, but it was fun chaos.”
One of the many ways Kiera interacts and helps her community aside from her educational profession is by believing in giving kids a chance and being a positive role model in their lives. She recalls a time during her first three years volunteering when a young boy she knew from HEROS had been waiting for a Big Brother as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Edmonton. According to Kiera caseworkers helped manage the City’s HEROS and asked the boy if he would take a Big Sister because he’s been waiting so long for a Big Brother. The boy asked, “Well can Kiera do it?”
It was an easy choice.
“It’s one of those things where just giving kids a chance, seeing the impact that having positive people around them, building that confidence and being part of a team, that makes a huge difference,” said Kiera.
Working with HEROS means not being a stranger to the words “anything is possible.” It was three years ago when HEROS founder Norm Flynn and Executive Director Kevin Hodgson approached Kiera with the opportunity to join SuperHeros Edmonton as a volunteer.
At the time, they knew Kiera’s job outside of HEROS, and though she was already a volunteer they asked her help give guidance to the new SuperHEROS volunteers on what HEROS is and working with children with special needs. “I know Norm and Kevin very well now, since I feel I’ve partially grown up with them or they’ve watched me grow up,” Kiera said. Just like her becoming a Big Sister to one of our HEROS players, it was an easy choice for Kiera and she’s been an active volunteer with SuperHEROS ever since.
“Those kids are so amazing. They have had to watch their siblings play sports and be in the stands. And it was so neat seeing those kids being the ones on the ice, and their siblings were cheering for them in the stands,” Kiera said. “They come from all different areas of the city, different schools…and they were all on the same team. It’s so cute when we’re out there and we say, ‘Who are we?’ and they all say, ‘We’re hockey players.’”
She recalls a moment where one of the kids was carrying around his skater tutor, which are red bars he pushes around to help him skate, and asked him how he was doing. “He’s like, ‘I’m good. I’m ready to be a hockey player.’ So, it’s just really cool when those kids… are not just the ones who are in the stands anymore,” Kiera said. “Everybody deserves to play.”
All of this helps the young players in the program see their own possibilities and that they too can reach their goals. Kiera notes that the young players really look up to and respect those older HEROS players. “Those are some really cool moments, when you see the kids progress to that point,” Kiera said. “It’s really neat to see them have those small successes and think, you know, maybe in some way that through their time at HEROS it’s played a little part in them getting to where they are.”
For Kiera, the HEROS program isn’t just beneficial for the HEROS players but also for her as well. With HEROS, Kiera is able to see the players grow, come back to volunteer, graduate high school, college and university, and even get married.
“People have said, ‘The kids are so lucky to have this opportunity and for you guys to be there for them every week.’ But at the same time, it was great for me. I could have a really tough day at work or a lot going on and you have these kids dealing with some of the horrible things that they’re dealing with, but they’re at the arena and they’re ready to go and they’re ready to play. But it definitely also put things into perspective, these kids are so resilient and everything and we can take a page out of their book sometimes,” Keira said.
HEROS is definitely fortunate to have a volunteer who embodies all of the traits and more that we expect from our HEROS players and community. HEROS is able to go above and beyond when our volunteers such as Kiera are extremely dedicated to making a difference in their community.