It is organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) of Edmonton that allow HEROS to reach the number of kids that we do. BCGBigs works in partnership with local schools to identify youth who could benefit from the HEROS program and coordinates the logistics for ice-times.
HEROS and BGCBigs of Edmonton partnered nearly 10 years ago, the last four years overseen by the Manager of School Day Programs Tannis Pearson. Tannis currently coordinates 10 schools, three being core feeder schools, to the HEROS after school program. The schools see tremendous value in offering a program like HEROS, “there is a lot of buy in with principals,” explains Tannis, “it’s free access to hockey and the supportive social emotional programming that comes alongside of it are what principals are after and they’re so grateful to have this program available to them and their students.” Each school “considers the program as part of their culture and identify as a HEROS school,” it’s included in conversations with parents, posters are displayed in the hallways and is mentioned on the schools’ website.
It is the positive lasting effects on participants that really makes the program a success according to Tannis. She tells of a story of one of those impacts – a HEROS participant who met HEROS ambassador Willie O’Ree and heard the story of his loss of vision in one eye. Our HEROS player shared something very unique with Willie and that was his false eye, he “immediately shot his hand up and said, ‘you’re just like me’ and I was so happy for him to have that experience and connect with him in that way” explained Tannis.
The relentless effort on behalf of HEROS staff and volunteers is what Tannis has observed as different from other charities, “what I love most about the program is they’re really relentless in how they reach out to kids and won’t give up on them. HEROS is very open and welcoming. Maybe you didn’t do something right, but there is always the opportunity to make it right.” Hockey is only the vehicle HEROS uses to create a positive impact on boys and girls across Canada. The safe and welcoming atmosphere that we create is where the meaningful impact happens with our players, explains Tannis, “[the kids] have the opportunity to talk to adults to support them in whatever is going on in their life. Even if they don’t feel like skating that day but they just really need to talk to somebody, there are a whole bunch of positive adults who are ready to hear them, support them, and love them”
Without organizations like BCGBigs HEROS wouldn’t be able to reach the children and youth that we do. The relationships BCGBigs has developed with local schools has supported the growth of a community around HEROS and we would like to thank BCGBigs for our tremendous 10 year partnership and we are excited about what the future holds for both our organizations.