Some local celebrities have scored big in the hearts and minds of Vernon’s youth.
The Vernon Vipers may be known for scoring goals on ice, but the BCHL team is also literally making GOALS! off the rink.
Granting youth Opportunities to Advance, Learn and Succeed (GOALS!) is a Vipers program that sends players into local elementary schools to read one-on-one with kids.
“They come to all our games and support us so it’s good for us to get out in the community and do what we can,” said captain Patrick McGillis, while at Ellison Elementary recently with Luke Juha, Max Mowat and Peter McMullen.
It was obvious the students were equally excited to see the Vipers, as they swarmed the players before they even got through the front doors.
“You guys are rock stars here amongst our kids so I think this is really neat having you here,” said Bob Gardner, Ellison principal.
Four students, who have made some real improvements in reading, were chosen as the lucky ones to get to sit down and have a private reading session with a Viper.
“They (classmates) are going to be so jealous,” said Grade 3 student Ethan Pope, after getting the chance to read with Vipers defenceman Mowat.
Following a few chosen stories, the pair even discovered some similarities between each other – a love for the No. 4, they were both good at reading in school and their Viper game attendance records are stellar.
“I never miss a Vernon Viper game,” said Pope, whose favourite player is now No. 4.
The Vipers wrapped up their day by signing autographs in the gym for students, after first visiting a couple classes and taking questions.
It was there that they aimed to score a winning message among the kids. One that no goal is too big, or too early to start working for, as many of these players have shown in their own hockey careers.
“I started playing hockey when I was four,” said Mowat.
“Me too,” said Juha.
Because in life, just as in hockey, it takes goals to win.
As often as the Viper hockey/school schedule will allow, players will be involved with one-on-one reading, school sports and general leadership roles from October to the end of February.
Also through the GOALS! program, for every goal scored by the Vipers at home this season, each participating GOALS! corporate partner will donate $2 to the program, which will be presented to a designated elementary school at the end of the season for a specific school program.