Barb Aidelbaum has been with HEROS from the very beginning. When she was asked to be part of the group that founded HEROS in Vancouver, over 20 years ago, Barb didn’t give it a second thought. Her love of hockey and skating coupled with helping economically challenged youth made it a perfect fit. As a professional skating coach, she lends her valuable technical expertise and hockey school perspective to help put together the on-ice programs and is a member of the board of directors.
She loves to get on the ice with the kids and especially likes to get know our female HEROS. Barb understands the importance of providing young girls positive role models, but she knows the power of the program is for all participants, “many of these children, if it weren’t for the HEROS volunteers, they wouldn’t have the experience of playing hockey. It’s kept children more engaged in their academics and school.” Barb acknowledges, “the discipline of the children that have been through the program that are now being young professionals – that’s profound and very exciting for sure.” Barb attributes the success of former participants to the key HEROS principles and program requirements: regular attendance, be on time, not being bystanders to any form of bullying and embody the HEROS values: Listening, Respect, Discipline, Have Fun.
Even after 20 years with the organization, Barb can still be surprised and moved by what happens at the rink. This past September, she was reminded of exactly why she continues to be as passionate and dedicated as she was on day one. She was attending the opening of Super HEROS – a new program in Calgary for youth with cognitive challenges, including Autism and Down Syndrome – and as she walked through the arena doors, she met a mother who proudly looked on with tears in her eyes. “She had one son in the HEROS program and a younger son who was now in the Super HEROS program. They’ve never done anything together because of the challenges the younger son had experienced and now the two boys have the same HEROS hockey jersey. I was like, ‘This is what it’s all about.’”
Super HEROS is a program that Barb was onboard with as soon as Executive Director, Kevin Hodgson, introduced it. The program was designed “so that there were 21 kids brought in the program and there were 21 volunteers on the ice with the kids, as well with the many other assistant coaches.” She cites the excitement in the organization in creating Super HEROS as one of her favourite HEROS moments. “We’re now using an extremely successful program and taking it to a new population…I feel like the program is coming full circle because we’re now helping all children.”
Whether skate coaching elite NHL athletes, taking her kids to their sports practices or hitting the ice with the HEROS kids – she’s on the go and loving every moment of it. While Barb prefers to keep the focus on the program and the kids rather than herself, the commitment she has shown to the program for more than two decades is truly an inspiration.