Jan. 29, 2014
By Marya Fratoni
STORRS, Conn. -- On Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 20), the UConn women’s ice hockey team held its annual Hockey East's Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer Clinc for hockey-loving boys and girls ages 8-12 at the Freitas Ice Forum. The kids and their parents came from all over Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts to participate in this greatly anticipated event. Each individual school in Hockey East holds this annual clinic to raise money and awareness for the Friends of Mel Foundation.
Assistant Coach Jaclyn Hawkins was thrilled with the outcome of the clinic and knows how much this event can impact the lives of the young boys and girls.
“Giving back to the community is something that is important to our team and the girls take pride in that,” Hawkins said. “A lot of our players remember looking up to college players when they were younger and the impact that had on them. It’s important to keep that going and be role models to the next generation of kids.”
The kids were split into two groups and got the chance to do some off-the-ice training sessions as well as drill stations on the ice. The players got the chance to interact with the kids during the training sessions as well as during the autograph and picture session and the locker room tour.
“The clinic is an amazing experience in which we take a break from the rigors of our game schedule and give back to the community,” said assistant captain Sarah MacDonnell. “The look on the kid’s faces as we showed them the locker room, signed autographs and took them through a day filled with on and off ice activities was just as rewarding as a big win for us.”
While the kids and players were off having a blast, Head Coach Chris MacKenzie met with Representative Pauline Alighieri from the Friends of Mel Foundation.
“Pretty much everyone in North America is going to have a family member affected by cancer,” said MacKenzie. “So it’s nice to be able to come together for a great cause and it teaches our players the value of reaching out and raising awareness for something very worthwhile.”
Junior forward Kayla Campero also found the clinic overall very rewarding, “The experience is great for us players because it allows us to give back to the community and provide the younger girls and boys a fun day where they can learn and practice with college players,” Campero said.
To make matters even more worthwhile, UConn tends to consistently have one the best turnouts in the league. As his first year as head coach, MacKenzie did not know what to expect in terms of participant numbers.
“I was very happy with the turnout and the energy and excitement of the players. They were very excited to be apart of it and it was very inspiring,” MacKenzie said.
All the participants, players, coaches, and parents would agree that the clinic is an experience that they would gladly repeat every year.
“One young girl even said to me ‘I can’t wait to be a husky someday!’” MacDonnell said. “So its great to see that we’re having an impact on their lives all while raising money for a great cause.”
Note: UConn’s annual Skating Strides game will take place on Friday, Jan. 31 when the Huskies host the Boston University Terriers at Freitas Ice Forum. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and the Huskies will wear commemorative pink jerseys for game action.