Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my summer visits with family in Pennsylvania. My mother’s aunt lived on a mountain and her children and grandchildren lived nearby. I spent my time with my cousin Suzanne but it was my relationship with her uncle, Sam, that I remember most fondly. Sam was my mother’s cousin, an adult, always working on his car, always quick with a joke. At some point in my early years, he lived with my family while in the Army. Sam has always had a special place in my heart because he made everything fun. He never treated me like I was an annoying little kid. I am 53 years old and I can still remember how Sam comforted me when I was a crying 7 year old. I also remember the laughter. There was always laughter when Sam was around.
It was because of my fondness for Sam that I didn’t hesitate to drive 8 hours (4 hours each way) to his son’s funeral in December 2011. Sam’s oldest son, Major Samuel “Sammy” Griffith of the United States Marines, was killed in Afghanistan. Although I hadn’t seen Sammy in over 20 years, it was my love and respect for Sam that drove me to the funeral. It was during that drive that I pondered how I could honor Sammy, not only for his service to our country, but also pay my respects to him for his family. The plan came together before I arrived at the funeral but it never occurred to me that it would change me and my path in life.
In the fall of 2011, my son was playing hockey at DeMatha High School. I was knee deep in the planning of an inaugural charity hockey game for his team, the American Heroes Hockey Challenge. We had designed camouflage jerseys, which were paid for by sponsors, while raising money for military charities. A few weeks before Sammy’s death, I had received a sponsorship which was named in honor of a fallen soldier. As I was driving to Sammy’s funeral, it occurred to me that I could sponsor a jersey in honor of Sammy. The day after the funeral, I shared the idea of honoring veterans, both past and present, with the hockey families and the sponsorships started to pour in. That first year, we honored 26 veterans. My son proudly wore Sammy’s jersey, a humbling experience, with Sam and his family in attendance. My son has long since graduated from DeMatha but I continue to organize the charity hockey game and we honor Sammy, along with now over 70 other veterans. Every year I share Sammy’s story with the player who wears his jersey, my small contribution to keep his memory alive.
It was the American Heroes event that led me to the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, an organization which provides ice hockey as a form of therapy and recreation for disabled veterans, both amputees and standing. While planning the inaugural event, we met with members of the Warriors, learned about the organization, and developed a relationship. The combination of military veterans and hockey made them a natural fit for the American Heroes event. The Warriors have been involved as volunteers and have been recipients of the proceeds from the very first event.
As my relationship with the Warriors developed, their President Thom Hirsch asked me to consider volunteering with the organization. I did not have the time to commit while my son was in high school but the summer after he graduated, Thom reached out to me again and asked for me to volunteer and I said yes. I began my work with the USA Warriors in the summer of 2013 as the manager for the amputee sled team. I coordinated rosters, travel, and hotel accommodations for the team and became their biggest cheerleader. I went on to become a member of the USA Warriors Board of Directors in 2014 and was elected President in 2015.
In the past three years, the USA Warriors have grown both locally and nationally, supporting teams in Ohio, Maine, Florida, Wisconsin, and soon South Carolina. Our teams play in games and tournaments both locally and across the country. More importantly, we provide a support system and sense of family while playing one of the greatest sports on the planet. It has been amazing to see the impact that the game of hockey and the TEAM can have on a disabled veteran, one who is missing limbs or suffering from demons that can’t be seen. I have had the pleasure of witnessing so many great accomplishments by the men and women that we support and am so proud of all of them.
I consider it a gift and a blessing for the relationships that I have made with the Warriors players and volunteers. I have met Congressmen and Senators, high level military officials, and players in the NHL on this journey, but it is the men and women who put on a different uniform, a USA Warriors jersey, who have impacted my life the most. They have given me so many heroes in my life and a family larger than I can put my arms around. I will never forget what brought me here. It was the death of another hero, one who left a large hole in my family, but one who brought our families together, closer than ever 7 years later. Sammy crosses my mind often because it was his death which led me to the Warriors. A gift that I can never repay. I hope that I make him proud.
#USAWarriors #NoneTougher #HockeyHeals
For Immediate Release
Columbus, Ohio - The USA Warriors Hockey, Inc. standing team will travel to Columbus, Ohio on Friday, March 24th, 2017 for a weekend that includes a game at the Columbus Blue Jackets practice facility at Nationwide Arena and attending a Blue Jackets home game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, March 25th.
The Warriors will start off the weekend’s festivities by facing the Columbus Fire Department and Police Department combined team at the Ohio Health Ice Haus at Nationwide Arena at 7:00pm. Attendance to Friday night’s charity game will be $10 with all proceeds benefiting the Ohio Warriors Sled program. The public is asked to buy their tickets here.
On Saturday morning the Warriors will be continuing their strong and growing relationship with the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Warriors will be guests to the Blue Jackets as a special event hosted by the Blue Jackets organization.
The Warriors will then attend the 2:00pm Columbus Blue Jackets game versus the Philadelphia Flyers at Nationwide Arena.
The Warriors will also be heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play the Whitley County Warbirds Charity Hockey Club on Sunday, March 26th. The game versus the Whitley County Warbirds will take place at 12:30pm at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne.
Attendance to Sunday’s game will be free for all fans but donations benefiting USO Indiana are strongly encouraged. Donations will be taken at the door upon fans entering Allen County Memorial Coliseum for Sunday’s charity game.
Following Sunday afternoon’s charity game, the Warriors will be attending the 4:30pm Fort Wayne Komets game at Allen County Memorial Coliseum.
Members of the media are invited to any and all of this weekend’s activities involving the warriors. Please contact Jeff Woods in advance if you would like to join the program at any of the events: email@example.com or 571-235-4684.
Any other inquiries about the events going on between March 24th and March 26th should be directed to the USA Warriors Director of Social Media and PR, William Hirsch: firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-910-9008.
Ohio Health Ice Hause
200 West Nationwide Arena Boulevard
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Allen County Memorial Coliseum
4000 Parnell Avenue
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
For Immediate Release
HYATTSVILLE, MD - The Hockey Teams from DeMatha Catholic and St. Albans High Schools will face off in the 5th Annual American Heroes Hockey Challenge on Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:30 pm, at The Gardens Ice House, in Laurel, MD. This charity hockey game will benefit Fisher House Foundation, a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military or VA medical centers, and the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, Inc., a program which provides therapeutic and recreational hockey for disabled veterans. The Special Guests for the evening will include Clint Malarchuk, an 11-year NHL Veteran Goaltender and Washington Capitals Alumni. The event will honor 70 veterans from every war since WWII, including a decorated Canadian WWII veteran. Veteran honorees will be represented on specially designed camouflage jerseys for both teams.
The event will feature a silent auction, raffles, and an autograph session with Clint Malarchuk. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and children. Donations are also being accepted online at the event fundraising site, https://warrioricehockey.sportngin.com/register/form/767271722?_ga=1.187954344.1871136983.1475890019.
To learn more about the event, please contact USA Warriors Media Relations Representative, William Hirsch at email@example.com or by phone at 301-910-9008.