LENDING A HELPING HAND
I. GREAT SKATE WINTERFEST - JAN. 23-24, 2016
The Great Skate debuted in 2002 as a 24-hour ice skating marathon held at the outdoor Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink in downtown Grand Rapids, with every Griffins player and coach skating for at least one hour around the clock with fans. In 2009, the event expanded into a two-day, 34-hour Winterfest, with skating, winter sports demonstrations, games and activities as part of a celebration of winter in our city. The 2016 Winterfest will begin at noon on Saturday, Jan. 23 and conclude with The Great Skate, which will run from 10 p.m. on Jan. 23 until 10 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24. Proceeds will once again benefit the Griffins Youth Foundation.
II. GROWING WITH THE GRIFFINS
Growing With The Griffins supports Grand Rapids-area youth hockey programs and the Griffins Youth Foundation. As part of this initiative, Griffins players make several visits to youth hockey practices to hand out t-shirts and help teach fundamentals of hockey. Most importantly, they emphasize the five core values of Cornerstone University’s Champions of Character program: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Servant Leadership and Sportsmanship. The players touch the lives of youngsters in eight area youth hockey associations (Grand Rapids Blades, Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey, Grand Valley Amateur Hockey, Hockey Association of West Kent, Holland Amateur Hockey, Kentwood Amateur Hockey, Fox Motors Hockey, and Rockford Amateur Hockey) as well as those who participate in various Griffins Youth Foundation programs. Sponsors provide opportunities for these youth hockey teams to play at Van Andel Arena on Saturday afternoons and attend Griffins games on those nights.
III. PUT A LID ON IT
The Griffins, in recognition of the importance of wearing helmets during bicycling and other outdoor activities, eagerly take that message to the streets and kids of West Michigan. Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is the presenting sponsor of Put A Lid On It, whose ultimate goal is to help prevent brain and neurological injuries among pre-K through middle school children. In recognition of its success, the program earned the 2007 Prevention Award from the Michigan Brain Injury Association. Each year, posters promoting the program and helmet safety are distributed to and displayed in hundreds of West Michigan schools, libraries, bike and skate shops and other public and retail establishments. Other aspects of the program include a ticket reward program for kids who wear their helmets, and donations of helmets through our Lids at the Library events, and to both Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids and the kids race participants at the annual Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium in downtown Grand Rapids. Kids who want to make a pledge to always wear their helmet and receive a voucher for two free Griffins tickets during the 2015-16 season can click here.
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IV. CHARITABLE GOALS
Local companies team with Griffins players to help raise money for various charities. Every time the player scores a goal or records a point, the company makes a donation toward a mutually agreed upon charity. This year’s partnerships and recipients include: Centennial Securities and Eric Tangradi, $50 per goal to Pursuing a Dream; DK Security and Anthony Mantha, $50 per goal to the Salvation Army; United Bank and Mitch Callahan, $100 per goal to Degage Ministries; Fox Motors and Tyler Bertuzzi, $100 per goal to the Griffins Youth Foundation; ImageQuest and Jeff Hoggan, $100 per goal to the Ryan Fischer Scholarship Fund; Yo Chef and Nathan Paetsch, $50 per goal to Easter Seals; Safelite Auto Glass and Andreas Athanasiou, $50 per goal to Gilda’s Club; and Carlin, O’Brien, Batson and Griffins goaltenders, $1 per save to Kids’ Food Basket.
V. YOUTH FOUNDATION GOLF TOURNAMENT
The 21st annual Griffins Youth Foundation Golf Classic was held on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015 at Egypt Valley Country Club. The event raises more than $70,000 each year for the Griffins Youth Foundation and the 350 underprivileged and underserved kids it supports. In addition to Griffins players, coaches and alumni, several other celebrities from the hockey world have attended this premier event, including current and former NHL players Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Mike Knuble, Darren McCarty and Chris Summers; Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, coach Jeff Blashill and broadcaster Ken Kal; and Jack O’Callahan and Ken Morrow, members of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic Team.
VI. GRIFFINS / SLED WINGS GAME - FEB. 9, 2016
In one of the most unique events anywhere involving a professional sports team, the Griffins each season play a friendly but spirited game of sled hockey with and against the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, a talented team of children and young adults with physical disabilities that is sponsored by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. This season’s 11th annual game will again benefit both the Griffins Youth Foundation and the Sled Wings.
VII. TIP-A-GRIFFIN - OCT. 27, 2015
Griffins players and coaches will visit all five Uccello's locations in West Michigan from 6-8 p.m. to serve food and wait tables, with tips and proceeds benefiting the Griffins Youth Foundation. In its eight previous editions, Tip-A-Griffin has raised nearly $77,000 for various local charities. For Uccello's location information, please visit uccellos.com.
VIII. CORKS, PUCKS & BREWS - MARCH 8, 2016
This wine and beer tasting benefit for Easter Seals Michigan returns for its fifth year at the Goei Center. Griffins players serve craft beer and wine samples to more than 150 guests, who also enjoy live music and hors d’oeuvres. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
IX. GRIFF’S READING GOALS
Twice each season, the Griffins reward young readers through the Griff’s Reading Goals program. In cooperation with the Kent Intermediate School District and the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, special bookmarks are distributed to Pre-K through eighth grade students, offering rewards for every hour that they read. Local businesses offer prizes for the first and second hours of reading, while kids who total three hours of reading receive two free tickets to a select Griffins game.
X. STICK WITH SCHOOL
Players and staff make several visits to local schools each season as part of the “Stick with School” program. They relate their life stories and how they came to be professional athletes, while preaching the importance of working hard in school. The players sign a stick and ask that it be displayed in a prominent area so that students are reminded to “Stick with School.”
XI. YOUTH HOCKEY CAMP - AUGUST 1-5, 2016
The Griffins Youth Hockey Camp, held each summer at Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park, features current and former Griffins players teaming up to share their experiences, both on and off the ice, with children 6-16 years of age. Past and present Griffins assistant coaches direct the hockey instruction, and local products Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings and NHL veteran Mike Knuble typically make appearances.
XII. BETTER HALVES
Introduced in 2003, players’ wives and girlfriends team up to assist the Griffins in their community endeavors. For example, in 2011-12, the Better Halves sold bracelets to help raise money for the families who lost loved ones in the tragic Russian plane crash on Sept. 7, 2011 that claimed the lives of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, including former Griffins players Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek and Stefan Liv.
XIII. SUMMER READING REWARDS
Each year since 2008, 20,000 children throughout seven West Michigan counties have turned their summer reading enjoyment into wintertime fun, thanks to partnerships between the Grand Rapids Griffins and more than 50 branches of the Grand Rapids Public Library, the Kent District Library and the Lakeland Library Cooperative. The Griffins reward kids who complete their local library’s summer reading program with two free tickets to a regular season game.
XIV. PLAYER/ALUMNI TICKET DONATIONS
In yet another example of their passion to give back to the West Michigan community, several Griffins players and alumni purchase Griffins season tickets that are donated to local charities, to help provide the children and families they serve with an enjoyable night out. For the 10th straight season, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has donated four season tickets to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital through his “Howard’s Heroes” initiative. Since 2014, Detroit’s Luke Glendening has donated two season tickets each to St. John’s Home and the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, while longtime Griffin Tom McCollum and Flagstar Bank have teamed up to donate four tickets to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids.
To get involved with any of the Griffins’ community endeavors, please call (616) 774-4585 ext. 3027.