While the HEROS framework and approach remains consistent throughout all chapters in Canada the atmosphere and character of each is as unique as the community it operates in.
The HEROS Winnipeg chapter, run by Dan Bohemier and Matt McCloud, is an example of how our programs adapt to fit the needs of the boys and girls in the community. The chapter is a school embedded program where Dan and Matt teach, which means it holds ice times during school hours one day a week. Dan acknowledges the players gain confidence from this type of program because “the kids see themselves as student athletes. They know they have to be respectful, try their best at school in order to be a part of the program.” Dan admits he misses a few lunches while the program is running due to the mid-day skate, but the results from the HEROS players are undeniable and makes it all worth it, “the HEROS hockey part of our school has allowed us to connect with kids on a way deeper and meaningful level than we ever would without the program.”
The program is incredibly popular in part because it runs during school hours and receives a large volume of applications. In response to the demand a unique application process was designed. Each potential participant is required to submit a letter explaining why they are a good fit for the program and do a “fitness test,” to ensure they are serious about participating in the program. Dan admits it is difficult to screen players using this criteria but believes this is one source of the programs’ strength, “it fuels the program knowing that they’ve got to show us they’re dedicated – it’s something that they’re passionate about. Skill and ability don’t matter – we want to take kids that want to be there.”
Every HEROS chapter is built on a strong foundation of dedicated volunteers and our Winnipeg chapter is no exception. The Winnipeg chapter is a family affair, volunteers include both of Matt and Dan’s parents, Dan’s sister and Dan’s Uncle, “they know the program is important, so they feel empowered being a part of it.” What allows Winnipeg’s chapter to run mid-day ice times is their unique contingent of volunteers with flexible schedules. The volunteers play an influential off-ice role coordinating equipment, handing out snacks, tying skates, washing jerseys and all of the behind the scenes work required for a program to succeed. Matt acknowledges that the consistency of volunteers each year strengthens the program, allowing it “to be more and more successful each year because it’s grandfathered in.” Volunteers and players alike know their responsibilities and know what to expect from previous years.
To Dan the chapter is a tremendous success and the positive impact HEROS is having on the students recognizes the need in today’s society to offer opportunities for underprivileged youth, “it’s been an amazing partnership and we’re very, very thankful to have them in our school community. Many of our kids are playing catch up in terms of academic success or social skills. This program does it’s best to level that playing field.”