Hockey Fans Have a Heart for Chicago’s Homeless Individuals
About 300 Chicago Wolves Hockey fans showed up two hours early to the game this past Saturday night so they could do something many of them said exemplifies what the team is all about: giving back to the community.
For the Wolves’ annual Faith & Fellowship Night, they once again partnered with The Salvation Army to mobilize volunteers to make blankets for homeless individuals throughout the greater Chicagoland area.
“Because of you, people who are living on the streets or in shelters will have a blanket to keep them warm tonight,” Major Kjell Steinsland told those at the volunteer event, explaining that Salvation Army staff with the mobile feeding and homeless outreach program will distribute the blankets as they make their daily stops to deliver meals, needed services, and caring conversation to those with nowhere to call home. “You are wrapping them in hope.”
Among the 300 people who showed up that night was a table full of members of the Northern Express, a peewee hockey team comprised of 4- through 8-year-olds from the Park Ridge area. Coach Heather Pacheco said their participation in the volunteer event was part of their effort to help the kids understand it’s important to give back. So, even though they’d all attended a birthday party that morning, then a hockey practice, and had a game to play the next day, they made time to come help make blankets before watching the game. “Hocked isn’t only a game,” Pacheco said. “It’s family.”
Chris Coyle, a hockey fan from Willowbrook, said, “One thing all Wolves fans are proud of is helping the community. This organization does so many good things throughout the year.” Others mentioned how good it feels to help others. “It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy,” said Roberta Goodman from Lake Villa, holding up one of the felt blankets.
Salvation Army staff member Andrew Ward, who works on the outreach unit and was at the Faith & Fellowship Night to gather all the blankets made, said he has been receiving more requests for items to help homeless individuals stay warm and dry after the recent cold snap. The Army’s state-of-the-art outreach unit includes a canteen, from which staff members serve more than 800 meals a day at 29 different stops around the city, and an assessment area for staff to meet with clients.
Andrew said the response when they give blankets to individuals in need is great. “They are so happy to receive them. They know they’ll stay warm for the night,” he said. “It’s also a good conversation piece for us to see how they’re doing and if there are other needs we can meet.”
The crowd that showed up to help meet these needs exceeded expectations. The 300 in attendance surpassed last year’s number by about 100. Suzie Brashler, volunteer resource manager for the Army, said, “We are grateful so many people came out to help their neighbors in need.”