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Griffins Youth Foundation (GYF)

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Nov, 2017

Griffins Youth Foundation Bringing More Young People To The Ice

Pam and Dan DeVos started the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation in 1995, when they purchased the Griffin franchise.

"They realized how expensive the sport was, so they wanted to make sure that children had the opportunity to play and not have cost, physical abilities or any other reasons preventing them from playing hockey," said Griffins Foundation Director Lynn Rabaut.

Twenty years later, the foundation has grown to involve about three hundred and fifty children and includes hockey for children with disabilities, an all girls hockey program, and coed hockey for kids first through twelfth grade.

"We are a recreational league and we only play teams within our own organization to play," said Rabaut. "We keep it pretty simple by playing at the same place and at the same time, on the same day twice a week and the reason for that is because it helps parents who are trying to keep hectic schedules. We aim to keep the kids physically active, mentally active but yet simple for families."

The foundation also has an education program that includes an on staff teacher who holds special theme days every Saturday at the ice rink for eighteen weeks.

The program focuses on nutrition for the first month, so that the kids understand the proper things to eat before they go on the ice and after they exerted energy on the ice.

"We have a tutoring and a reading program for first through sixth grade, and kids are given awards at the end of the year for all of the books that they read," said Robaut. "We kind of make a really big deal out of being able to read. We also have book giveaways twice a year where kids can take books home and keep them."

The program also has computers that the kids can use, which is very popular activity among the kids even though they are playing educational games.

The foundation regularly has representatives from community organizations stop in to talk to students from places like John Ball Park Zoo, Ronald McDonald, fire fighters or officers from the police department.

The Cancer Cup game gives kids a chance to raise money for four different organizations that deal with families who are dealing with cancer. The organization will also being having a can drive this year for Kid's Fruit Baskets and Senior Meals program.

Some people think that hockey is not a sport that Black kids participate in, but the fact is that more and more of them are discovering the fun that can be had on an ice rink.

Jordan and Jeremiah Dubbink are two Black young men who started skating and playing hockey very early in their child hood and are now both coaches in the Griffins Youth Foundation.

"I started ice skating and playing hockey when I was about seven years old," said Jordan Dubbink. "I got the passion for hockey almost as soon as I stepped on the ice and I began to like it more and more. The Griffins Foundation helped me to learn how to skate and how to play hockey.

They are both graduates of Central High School and say that although there were not a lot of Black kids playing when they first started playing hockey, the number of Black kids being introduced to and regularly playing hockey is growing.

"I can remember that when I was playing regularly, there were two more Black boys who played in the same league, but now there are a lot more Black kids playing hockey," said Jeremiah. "We had never heard of the Griffins Youth Foundation until our parents told us about it and we agreed to give hockey a try," As coaches, Jordan and Jeremiah do their best to teach their players hockey fundamentals and life lessons along the way.

"Most people don't know this but hockey is a very calming sport for me and it has helped me to meet people from all races and backgrounds," said Jordan. "The game forces kids to interact with other kids on the ice. Most of the kids in the league are closer to being friends than being enemies on the ice.

Everything that the youth foundation does is great and they continue to help kids through hockey.

Hockey is not a cheap sport, so the fact that the foundation will provide uniforms for the children is a big bonus.

"The program is also great because kids can play for free," said Jeremiah. "Hockey is an expensive sport and the youth foundations gives them a chance to be exposed to something that they probably would not have been exposed to. Usually when I coach a kid, they want to keep coming back and playing more and more hockey."

For more information about the youth program and the foundation, please call 970 - 5437

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