Calgary is fortunate to have a major junior hockey team that not only provides excellent sports entertainment with games at the Scotiabank Saddledome; they have many community ties and support the Calgary Board of Education in many ways. 

The recipient of the January 8, 2013 Lighthouse Award was the Calgary Hitmen Hockey Club. They are a major junior ice hockey team that plays in the Central Division of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Bret “Hitman” Hart, a local-born professional wrestler, was a founding owner as well as the inspiration for the team’s name. Established in 1994, the team has been owned by the Calgary Flames Limited Partnership since 1997. They are the third WHL team to represent Calgary, preceded by the Centennials and Wranglers. In 2004–05 they became the first team in Canadian Hockey League history to average 10,000 fans per game. Coincidentally this too was a season that experienced an NHL work stoppage. Thirty-seven former Hitmen players have gone on to play in the National Hockey League. 

The Calgary Board of Education is fortunate to have support from this type of community organization. Over the years, the Lighthouse Award has recognized a variety of programs, initiatives, sponsorships and expertise that enhance many educational activities available to our students. This Lighthouse Award recipient brings together the opportunities from well attended sports events and their care and concern for the well-being of the entire Calgary community.

Setting goals and celebrating accomplishments are part of the Calgary Hitmen organization’s philosophy and this aligns with the CBE focus on academic success, personal development, character development and citizenship. Working with our partners assists us in focusing on the accomplishments that demonstrate the achievement of these results for each student during their educational journey. Our Lighthouse recipient’s involvement touches all of our Results outcomes and following are some highlights of our involvement with Calgary Hitmen.

One of our key literacy initiatives, Book Bags for Kids, benefits greatly from our association with the Calgary Hitmen.  Several thousand stuffed animals are donated to the CBE from annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss. The soft, cuddly animals are sent to schools that host a family literacy event and receive the bag of new books. These stuffies become a child’s reading buddy and bring enjoyment as students share stories with them.

In addition Calgary Hitmen are a financial sponsor for Book Bags for Kids and Fuel for School, the CBE breakfast program found in 18 schools. Their interest in literacy and food support are both highly valued.

Calgary Hitmen also ensure our teachers are shown appreciation for the work they do every day in our classrooms. The Calgary Hitmen Hockey Club and TELUS have developed a partnership aimed at recognizing both Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District elementary teachers. The program entitled “Front of the Class” celebrates students’ recognition of the impact that elementary teachers have on their academic, moral, personal and social development. The program encourages elementary students to express appreciation through creative writing for one of their current teacher’s dedication and skill.

The TELUS Front of the Class program is one method of involving children and their parents in recognizing the importance teachers play on the development of children under their care. Most teacher recognition programs are provincial or national and few involve student nominations. As a result, this program generates much needed public recognition of the importance of having excellent teachers in Calgary. All student nominations not selected as the winning nominations for each month are eligible for two tickets to an upcoming Calgary Hitmen game.

The teacher selected along with the students in their class and the school principal each receive two tickets for the designated Front of the Class Hitmen game. All of the teachers selected are invited to return for special recognition on Sunday March 16th, 2013. Each teacher will be recognized on the Flames Energy Board and provided with a keepsake of the event. The 10 teachers as well as all of the nominated teachers and their schools are also featured on the Calgary Hitmen website under a Front of the Class header.

Throughout the hockey season tickets are made available for our students through the Hitmen Exchange and Corporate Caring Programs. This allows our students to enjoy a Calgary Hitmen hockey game compliments of the club. We have given out thousands of tickets to schools across the system. Calgary Hitmen have also provided the CBE with the opportunity to be spotlighted at a home game for a CBE Night with the Hitmen. This is the second year for this event and on January 18, 2013 we will have a student staff hockey game during intermission, performances by CBE students, the Juno Beach color guard will be present during the singing of the national anthem, interviews with a Trustee, zamboni riding and CBE messaging will occur throughout the game. Tickets are sold at a reduced rate and $2 from each ticket along with a portion of the 50/50 draw will be directed to the CBE Fuel for School breakfast program.

The Calgary Hitmen will also visit five allocation elementary schools during the 2012-13 season where members of the team play a floor hockey game against student and teachers from the school. Upon conclusion of the floor hockey game, a hot lunch is served to the students through the Community Kitchen Program. Players then make their way to the classrooms where they will speak to and sign autographs for the kids.

These highlights of the support from the Calgary Hitmen demonstrate that the impact of these opportunities is wide ranging and enjoyed by students at many grade levels and in many schools. We sincerely appreciate the support to the CBE provided by Calgary Hitmen, their staff and community partners. We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to continued opportunities to work with the dedicated individuals that represent this organization. Mike Moore, Director Business Operations and Derald Fretts, Coordinator of Marketing and Community Programs were present at the January 8, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting and received the plaque from Chair Cochrane.

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