LENDING A HELPING HAND
The Grand Rapids Griffins take great pride in our relationship with the West Michigan community. In addition to having developed many unique and successful programs, we make nearly 300 player, coach and mascot appearances each season.
As our efforts have evolved, the Griffins have focused on developing a variety of programs to raise money for charity. These endeavors have enabled us to generate more than $3.1 million for various schools, organizations and non-profits during the past 10 seasons and earned our franchise the AHL’s 2008-09 Western Conference community service award.
The Griffins will continue striving to enhance our community by touching thousands of lives through our dynamic programs, which include:
I. GREAT SKATE WINTERFEST
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 2014 Winterfest raised over $20,000 for the Griffins Youth Foundation. For information on future events, visit this page.
II. GROWING WITH THE GRIFFINS
In conjunction with partners such as Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Belle Tire and Dean Foods, 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 (East Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey, Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey, Grand Valley Amateur Hockey, Hockey Association of West Kent, Holland Amateur Hockey, Kentwood Amateur Hockey, Michigan Nationals, and Rockford Amateur Hockey) as well as those who participate in various 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 to Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids and the kids race participants at the annual Grand Cycling Classic in downtown Grand Rapids. To make a pledge to always wear your helmet and receive a voucher for two free Griffins tickets during the 2013-14 season, please click here.
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: Jeff Hoggan and Centennial Securities, $50 per goal to the Pursuing a Dream Foundation; Tomas Jurco and DK Security, $50 per goal to the Salvation Army and Gilda's Club; Luke Glendening and Fox Motors, $100 per goal to the Griffins Youth Foundation; Nathan Paetsch and G's Grill, $50 per goal to Easter Seals of Michigan; Landon Ferraro and Laminin Medical Products, $100 per goal to Kids Games.
V. YOUTH FOUNDATION GOLF TOURNAMENT
The 18th annual Griffins Youth Foundation Golf Classic was held on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 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 NHL players Darren McCarty, Mike Knuble and Chris Summers, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill 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. 18, 2014
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 adults with physical disabilities that is sponsored by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. This season’s ninth-annual game will again benefit both the Griffins Youth Foundation and the Sled Wings.
VII. TIP-A-GRIFFIN - NOV. 18, 2013
A fan favorite returned for the 2013-14 season, as Griffins players and coaches visited all four Uccello's locations in West Michigan to serve food and wait tables, with donations benefiting the Griffins Youth Foundation. In its seven previous editions, Tip-A-Griffin has raised nearly $80,000 for various local charities.
VIII. CORKS, PUCKS & BREWS - MARCH 3, 2014
Last season, the Griffins hosted their second Corks, Pucks and Brews wine and beer tasting benefit for Easter Seals Michigan at the Goei Center. Griffins players served craft beer and wine samples to over 150 guests, who also enjoyed live music and hors d’oeuvres.
IX. PUPS AND PUCKS FALL WALK-A-THON - OCT. 14, 2013
The Griffins held their sixth annual Pups and Pucks Fall Walk-a-Thon at Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary in Lake Odessa on Oct. 14, 2013, when Griffins players, coaches and front office staff walked rescued dogs for pledges. Presented by Beene Garter LLP, the event invites all animal lovers to attend – with or without a dog to walk – and enjoy a host of activities that include live music, a BBQ dinner, hay rides and a K-9 costume contest. The event raises approximately $15,000 annually for Mackenzie’s, the Midwest’s largest no-kill sanctuary.
X. 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.
XI. GRIFFINS GIVE BACK
The Griffins Give Back program debuted for the team’s home game on Oct. 25, 2009, when more than 3,200 unemployed workers and their families enjoyed free tickets to the Griffins’ 6-1 win over Abbotsford. To date, the program has distributed nearly 11,000 tickets.
XII. 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.”
XIII. YOUTH HOCKEY CAMP
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. Bob Kaser operates the camp, Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek directs the hockey instruction, and local products Luke Glendening of the Griffins, Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings and NHL veteran Mike Knuble make appearances.
XIV. BETTER HALVES
Introduced in Dec. 2003, players’ wives and girlfriends team up to assist the Griffins in their community endeavors. Previously, 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.
XV. 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.
To get involved with any of the Griffins’ community endeavors, please contact (616) 774-4585, ext. 3027.