The HEROS program (Hockey Reaching Out Society) is an incredible cross-Canada initiative supporting youth in at-risk neighbourhoods, but it is about so much more than just hockey. HEROS is about more than the skills and the drills and the ‘on-ice’ moments. While those are moments that are equally as rewarding, there are successes that are celebrated off the ice that are true testaments to the value of HEROS.
Wyatt is one of those testaments.
When Wyatt joined HEROS in 2006, his school was concerned that the quiet (and quite shy) Forest Lawn boy might not have the resiliency to stare down the adversity faced through school, despite having academic ability. Wyatt had some factors working against him, as most HEROS do, and these challenges were a concern to those who cared about him.
Nine-year-old Wyatt had zero experience playing hockey when he stepped foot on the ice for the first time at one the HEROS ice-times. He was very shy, but he brought a big heart and high energy level to his sessions. He took to hockey and the HEROS program quickly and it soon became something he counted on every week.
“When I was having a bad week or day, I would always look forward to Thursday, when I was on the ice with HEROS”, Wyatt recounts, “and I still look forward to Thursdays!”. He started finding his voice in junior high, which Wyatt attributes greatly to his involvement in HEROS and he believes that being part of the HEROS program opened him up to great opportunities in life.
HEROS encouraged Wyatt to be more involved in school and he joined the student advisory council in high school. He went to conferences, they talked about student issues within the school, and in grade 11 he went to China, on behalf of the Calgary Board of Education, to gain understanding of the differences in student issues from all different countries. One of Wyatt’s teachers even nominated him for the Calgary Under 19 Youth leadership award in grade 12; which he was later awarded!
Just the 2nd Canadian Winner of the NHL Thurgood Marshall Scholarship, Wyatt not only graduated high school, he just wrapped the 2nd year of his business degree at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
But his devotion to his own education has not stopped him from continuing his HEROS journey. Wyatt was one of the youth that helped to create the grade 8-12 program for HEROS – a program that is referred to as the All Stars Peer Mentorship Program. In his first year of university, his schedule didn’t allow him to help out with HEROS as much as he wanted, so he managed to work his classes out in his second year to ensure he would be at HEROS every week, giving back to the program that gave so much to him. He wants to show that “HEROS kids can lead HEROS kids” and set an example for his younger brother, who is currently in the program himself. “[HEROS] put so much time into me and I feel it’s my time to give to them.”
Being in the HEROS program “was a way of staying out of trouble and giving back to the community. It was a second family”. Wyatt says he still has great friendships with other HEROS kids today after all these years.
Wyatt’s plans are to graduate from University and go into politics. “I just want to make a difference and I think that being able to implement new policies will make a bigger difference for more people”, he explained. He’s getting his feet wet as the Director of Communications of his Community Association in Forest Lawn, where he was raised and still resides. His goal is to make his community a better and safer place for families.
When asked what advice he’d give to the young HEROS in the program now, Wyatt replied:
“Just keep pushing forward… keep going! Things will get better!”
A true HERO.