The founder and executive Director of the H.E.R.O.S, Norm Flynn, has brought his program out of North America for only the second time to launch a hockey initiative for at-risk youth in Belfast and Dublin Ireland
The Vancouver based H.E.R.O.S. (Hockey Reaching Out Society) along with Co-operation Ireland and the Belfast Giants hockey team jointly announced the launch of the Giants H.E.R.O.S initiative.
Flynn, States “The H.E.R.O.S. program uses hockey as a catalyst to encourage positive behavior, promote confidence, teamwork, and responsibility and most importantly build self-esteem for at-risk youth from low-income neighborhoods. Participating schools select students on basis of need to participate in a fun-filled, safe environment where each child is considered a hero.”
Todd Kelman, GM of the Belfast Giants stated, “The H.E.R.O.S. program is massive across Canada and I am proud of the fact that this the second time outside of North America they came back to Ireland.
This is the best project the Giants have been involved in since I’ve been GM or a player. Choosing thirty young people from four youth clubs in East Belfast, Short Strand and Finglas in Dublin took place. Yet again it was a roaring success story for all concerned ” concluded Kelman.
The Belfast Giants plus ex-professional Canadian ice hockey players, all gave their time voluntarily to the Heros initiative.
The project is based on a Canadian model and uses ice hockey as a medium to teach young people about discipline, listening, teamwork and having fun. They will also have the opportunity to participate in music, environmental and cultural events.
The H.E.R.O.S. program is unique, in that it provides children with free equipment use and on-ice instruction to play a relatively expensive sport that would be essentially unaffordable otherwise.
Norm Flynn stated on his return to Ireland, ”When I saw the impact it had on the kids in Ireland the very first year, it moved us like no other program we have been involved in.
Every kid has a challenge – no matter what type, he has a challenge. A kid is a kid no matter how you look at it. We learned that through our programs throughout Canada.
We didn’t know what to expect here in Belfast and Dublin before we came. Strangely enough the same rule applies.
What the kids here in Ireland want and need, is attention and some consistency in their life.
Over a period of six months we do up some 3000 skate laces during that period. Its not that they can‘t do up their own laces, however that is the only time we have with them one on one. That’s where you learn.
Talking with them, they want to find out how your day went? The kids look at you with their eyes wide open wanting to learn. Most have never heard of Canada let alone where it is on the map.
Doing up their skates is quality time to bond with the kids and their most important time. With the Giants players being involved which is so important, as they are their local stars and role models helping them do up their skates. They engage so well with all the kids.
When you put the quality time in you reap the just rewards at the end of the project. Our message is “Be the best you can through education and discipline in life.”
I’m looking forward to the Charlestown On Ice program in the first week of October where more kids from cross boarder backgrounds make friends and develop in the Heros Program. Peter Ting and Mark Bowes are heading up the event in Dublin.”
Flynn continued, “In the process of participating and having fun they also learn a lot of terrific skills. It’s amazing how after just two years they are walking taller, are more goal oriented and have hope for the future because they start to appreciate the value of staying in school and progressing on to post secondary education,” he concluded.
Written by Wayne Hardman