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Feb 25, 2017


What started as an exploratory conversation among two strangers, whose only common bond was the time they both spend watching their kids play hockey, developed into a wonderful event, a learning experience for many, and a successful fund raiser and a new friendship.    Coaches Virgil Rutili, Joe Zolezzi, Erik Anderson’s Bantam Central States team, behind the leadership of Jami Breslin and the tireless efforts and donations from Megan Granzyk, Caitlin Robertson and Renee Piemattei and many others  organized and executed a fundraising event for the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team at Fox Valley Ice Arena on Feb 25th.

Jami Breslin explained how the event took shape, “I connected with a friend of mine that works for Special Olympics for service ideas. She suggested Special Hockey. I immediately thought of my teaching days and the impact that special needs kids have always had on me. Immediately, I knew this org was a fit for us and I wanted my own three children to get involved and serve and help this cause. I honestly believed it would help my three players truly appreciate their blessings, one of which is the opportunity to play hockey. At first, the goal was to give our Cyclones the experience of sharing the ice with these kids and providing Special Hockey players with a memorable and fun hockey game. I reached out to Special Hockey. Their director gently asked about fundraising activities to support an upcoming trip they wanted to take to a national special hockey conference. From there, our amazing bantam parents came together, raising almost $5k for this great cause.”  The day included not only a pizza party with all the players before the game in Chelli’s, but a 50/50 raffle, a bake sale with awesome chocolate brownies, a chuck a puck, a silent auction with fantastic baskets, Hawks tickets,  and the opportunity to meet and mingle with Chicago Blackhawk Tanner Kero.

Melanie Freeman is the director the Blackhawks Special Hockey Team.  She told me that Tanner Kero carries rock star status to the kids on her team….only he didn’t act like one.  “I can’t say enough about how thrilled they were to get to meet Tanner Kero.  He was so kind to stay and take pictures and meet the players after the game.  I’ll forward you some of our pictures and you can see on their faces how excited and thrilled they were to meet him.”  Kero spent about 3 hours at the rink, volunteering his time to make a difference in the lives of these kids and to help raise funds by signing autographs and posing for pictures with players and fans.   We greatly appreciate his time and effort to help this great group!

Everyone in this sport knows how the hockey bills can add up quickly.  Freeman explained to me how families with kids who have special needs, and who want to play hockey, really benefit from outside financial support.  “Events like these are extremely helpful to us.  When you have a family member with Special Needs much of your discretionary spending can go to medical or therapeutic expenses.  Our club is affordable to families because of our affiliation with USA Hockey, AHAI and the Chicago Blackhawks.  We are staffed only with volunteers so we are able to offer a very affordable hockey program.  What we haven’t been able to do in the past is assist with travel expenses.  This year we’ve been fundraising to make traveling to our National festival more affordable.  The funds we raised last week will go directly to assisting some of our families with travel expenses to the Disabled Hockey Festival, which this year is being held in San Jose, CA April 6-9.  This is the first year that we have attempted to raise funds for the Disabled Festival.  As a result, we have more than doubled the amount of players that are able to make the trip.”  What an awesome way for the Cyclones to help these wonderful kids, who love hockey just as much or more than we all do!

Melanie Freeman, the team’s director shared these thoughts after the game…..

“Your players were so kind and gracious to all of our players during the pizza party and during the game. My son, Evan particularly enjoyed the teams eating together and really spending quality time with each other.  He was excited that they were introducing themselves.  What a fine bunch of young men you have on your team.  Everything that they did made our players feel special and really helped us raise funds.  It was the biggest fundraising event that we’ve had all year.  I really can’t thank the Cyclones enough for hosting us in such a wonderful event.”  The event raised just over $4700.00.

Chase Breslin was one of the Cyclones who participated, “”At first I wasn’t sure what to expect. After we got on the ice and I saw how much fun the Special team was having and how excited they were to play, it made me really happy. It was a lot of fun”

In the gallery of photos you can see the smiles and the joy that these types of events can bring.  Thanks to Jami Breslin and her wonderful group of parent teammates and other volunteers for making this such a huge success.  Thanks also to members of the Cyclones U18 Central States Team for their help: Shane Breslin, Justin Callahan, Mike Papa, Lee Price, Mike Stedronsky,  and……HEMI…….Perhaps we can raise more in 2018 and send more players on the hockey roadtrip of a lifetime!


Way to Go Blackhawks Special Hockey players!

Way to Go Cyclones!

Categories: Uncategorized

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