We throw the word hero around quite a bit in our culture, often in a haphazard manner. According to Merriam-Webster, a hero can be a legendary figure endowed with great strength or ability, an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, or one who shows great courage. Yet still, we hear the word hero used to describe people who do not necessarily embody any of these qualities. This is not one of those times.
That’s because this post is about real heroes, such as the ones that make up our Armed Forces. Stationed in dangerous places like Afghanistan and Iraq, they put the safety and security of their country ahead of their own wellbeing. These folks are the epitome of the word hero.
This post is also about sports heroes, specifically Minnesota Vikings’ defensive end Jared Allen. If you’re a fan of the NFL, you know him. If you follow the Vikings, you worship him. If you’re a quarterback, you fear him. And while we often hear the word hero associated with a player’s on-field pursuits, his real heroism comes from what he does outside the stadium.
Lastly, this post is about some more common heroes – ordinary working men who saw an opportunity to help some very deserving folks and have turned that opportunity into a wonderful organization and a series of great events. Scott Winters and Dana Kane are insurance brokers. David Billings is a mechanical engineer. All three are located in the greather Chicago area, and all three make up Hockeyboyz, an entity that organizes and promotes hockey tournaments and leagues in the northern suburbs of IL.
It was the Hockeyboyz’ foresight, passion for hockey, and generous nature that will bring all of the aforementioned subjects together this summer for the Summer Sizzle Hockey Tournament. The event, which will take place at both the Hot Shot Ice Arena in Lake Bluff and RinkSide in Gurnee (both in IL), will pit teams of four players against each other to determine a champion. It takes place June 24-26, 2010, with most of the players coming from local adult leagues.
“We all played in a men’s league together for the past 3 or 4 years,” says Kane. “We were sitting around after a game discussing tournaments, leagues, and charities and came up with this concept.” The concept he speaks of is linking hockey fans and players with important charities by hosting hockey tournaments. The charity for their June event is Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. According to the charity’s Facebook page, Homes for Wounded Warriors builds and modifies homes for wounded US service men and women returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Scott is a Marine Corps veteran, as is my father,” explains Kane. “We both wanted to do something to help our service men and women.”
Together with Homes for Wounded Warriors’ IL Vice President James Stroh, Winters, Kane, and Billings have created an event that they hope will become an annual event and a large source of revenue for the charity’s ongoing projects. After hosting smaller tournaments in 2009 and earlier this year, Hockeyboyz plans on making the Summer Sizzle a weekend festival that goes beyond the games themselves. They’ll have raffles, 50/50’s, and silent auctions at the arenas and local bars, and Sunday will see a benefit music festival held in conjunction with the on-ice action. The concert will feature five bands, and will be held at Anastasia’s Resaurant & Sports Bar in Waukegan, IL. And while some celebrities simply lend their names to a charity and walk away, Jared Allen is fully engaged in his. As of the time of this story, he is slated to attend the concert.
Despite the success of their first few events, the process of building a large charity tournament has not been easy. “This is not our full-time job, but it has become a full-time job.” Kane says. “We are always looking for sponsors for our tournaments. Sponsors will help reduce costs which means we can donate more.” Current sponsors include a number of local restaurants, ice rinks, and retail stores, and all partnerships were brokered in the ‘boyz personal time. So I asked them why they bother. With professional careers, time-consuming hobbies, and families at home, what motivates them to put on these events?
Winters answers: “When you start looking at things over your life, really what have you done? Making a difference in someone’s life changes their day, week, month, and year! God has blessed us with healthy families, great kids, and better friends in our lives. [The tournaments are] an opportunity for us to give something back. Maybe, just maybe, someone will take the time and do something else for someone who needs it.”
For more information on the Summer Sizzle hockey tournament, concert, or other Hockeyboyz events, visit their website or Facebook page.
For more information on Jared Allen’s Homes For Wounded Warriors, visit their Facebook page.