The Buffalo Sabres are proud to announce a new community program this season that will feature Sabres players, coaches, organization, alumni and fans supporting a variety of different non-profit agencies and individuals who make our community so special. Sabres Community Assist will be a six-day endeavor from October 18-23 that will include player visits to area non-profit organizations, a fundraising walk to benefit the I AM effort and will shine a light on individuals whose lives have inspired and impacted others.
“We are very excited to introduce the Sabres Community Assist program that will be a celebration of so many who make this area such a wonderful place to live,” said Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson. “This organization-wide effort is one way for us to give back to a community that has given us so much over the years.”
The schedule of events is as follows:
- Oct. 18: Heritage Centers
- Oct. 19: Vive, Inc.
- Oct. 20: I AM Tribute Walk
- Oct. 21: Kids Escaping Drugs
- Oct. 22: Buffalo City Mission
- Oct. 23: Rowan Langille Tribute Night
Friday, October 18: Heritage Centers
The Buffalo Sabres kicked off Sabres Community Assist Week with a special visit to the Fall Festival at the Heritage Centers Maryvale School in Maryvale, N.Y. on Friday.
The group consisting of eight Sabres players, Sabres alumni Rob Ray and Andrew Peters, coach Ron Rolston, former broadcaster Harry Neale and Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson interacted with students from the Heritage Centers Educational Center and individuals in the Heritage Centers’ adult work program for an ice cream social.
The Fall Festival left a lasting impact on the Heritage Centers families, according to Executive Director Michael Gross.
“Our people have a long road to face. To have celebrities and the Sabres organization as a whole embrace them is incredibly uplifting,” Gross said. “We have truly found that the Sabres organization gets it. They want to be part of the fabric of the community. That is going to carry a long way.”
WATCH: SABRES AT HERITAGE CENTERS
Peters was put to work making snow cones for the ice cream social while Neale manned an arts and crafts table. Current Sabres Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Henrik Tallinder, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson and Mark Pysyk all kept busy by playing basketball and various carnival games with the kids. They also enjoyed the bounce house, inflatable slide and pony rides.
The evening was full of jokes and fun as everyone was able to take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the event. A long game of basketball and some time spent in the bounce house with the children served as a mini-workout for some of the players.
“I’m sweating!” Larsson joked. He also added that it was nice to see all the kids and spend some time with them.
For 60 years, Heritage Centers has delivered comprehensive services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Through their efforts, Heritage Centers has helped many developmentally disabled people strive to reach their full potential. The Heritage Centers Maryvale School serves approximately 160 developmentally disabled children.
Beth Simons, Chief Operating Officer of the Heritage Centers Foundation, commented on the impact this event would have on the children.
“It’s so special that the children can come out and spend time with the Sabres and just be kids,” she said.
The event also had special meaning to the players.
“You really appreciate that you are fortunate with what you have,” Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. “These kids are so happy and it is really humbling.”
-Clare Lewis, Sabres.com Digital Content Intern
Saturday, October 19: Vive, Inc.
The Buffalo Sabres had some very special guests at First Niagara Center for their morning skate on Saturday. As a part of Sabres Community Assist Week, the team welcomed a group from Vive, Inc. to the arena.
Vive is the largest refugee shelter in the United States and, according to executive director Angela Jordan-Mosely, it welcomes almost 3,000 people each year from approximately 110 countries. Vive is a non-profit, humanitarian organization that assists refugees seeking protection in the U.S. and Canada. With 118 beds for men, women and children, Vive, which is located in Buffalo on the border of Fort Erie, Ont., offers food, clothing and shelter for refugees from around the world.WATCH: MSG FEATURE ON VIVE, INC
Sabres Director of Community Relations Rich Jureller was very pleased that the team was able to help Vive as a part of their week-long community service endeavor.
“One of the things we wanted to accomplish was to get involved with an organization that we didn’t know much about and the rest of the community didn’t know enough about,” Jureller said. “A lot of people I talked to kept saying, ‘You have to go talk to Vive, they’re really special.’ We went to meet with them and found out that they’re really special.”
After taking in the morning skate from a few rows behind the Sabres’ bench, the group from Vive had the chance to meet Sabres color commentator Rob Ray as well as current Sabres players John Scott, Ville Leino and Patrick Kaleta. Kids and adults alike were enamored with the experiences as they received autographs and photos from each player.
Goaltending coach Jim Corsi also took the time to meet with Vive and quickly developed a rapport with everyone in the room. A native of Montreal, Quebec, Corsi switched from English to French to speak to a couple of French-speaking visitors from Vive. Corsi also emphasized the importance of education to the many young children in attendance.
After this morning’s events, the men and women from Vive watched Buffalo’s game against the Colorado Avalanche in a team suite. From the most casual hockey fan to the biggest Sabres admirer, every person from Vive found that their visit to First Niagara Center created many unforgettable memories.
-Joe Ray, Sabres.com Digital Content Intern
Sunday, October 20: I AM Tribute Walk
On Sunday, October 20, the Buffalo Sabres organization hosted a 5k walk to raise money for the Iraq/Afghanistan memorial, which will be built in the Buffalo and Erie County Military Naval Park. The walk was part of the team’s inaugural Community Assist Week.
Along with raising money for the memorial, the tribute walk honored the 64 Western New Yorkers who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.
WATCH: SABRES PARTICIPATE IN IAM WALK
Frontera, an Iraq War Veteran, carries his rucksack from his time in Iraq to every benefit walk and run he attends. His rucksack weights 64 pounds, serving as a tribute to the 64 soldiers from Western New York who lost their lives while serving their country.
“We’re so grateful that Dan came to us two years ago and had this vision,” said Cathy Macfarlane, a Gold Star Mom. “As Gold Star families, we are so thrilled that it’s become this large and we have a beautiful day for it. I’m just overwhelmed seeing everything that’s going on here.”
Along with many military and other community members, many Sabres players walked the 5K to support the cause. Among them was Steve Ott, who reflected on his time growing up in a military family.
“Living the military life is something that’s in my heart,” said Ott. “I’m a military kid and it’s the reason I’m here today and able to live my dream. Both of my parents served for 26 years so this means a lot to me. ”
The walk was an important part of the continuing fundraising effort, raising over $30,000 of the estimated $100,000 it will take to construct the monument. With the addition of the money raised on Sunday, about 70 percent of the total funds have been raised. The monument is scheduled to be completed by next spring.
-Marc Davies, Sabres.com Digital Content Intern
Monday, October 21: Kids Escaping Drugs
As part of the Sabres Community Assist Week, the Renaissance House in West Seneca welcomed some special guests on Monday night.
Current Sabres Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Brian Flynn, Jhonas Enroth, Cody McCormick, Tyler Ennis and Corey Tropp interacted with the adolescents, along with Sabres alumni Rene Robert, Craig Muni, Jay McKee and Daryl Shannon, and broadcaster Dan Dunleavy.
Prior to eating together, the group of players split up into several different activities. Miller played cards with some of the males, while Ennis and Enroth played ping pong with a few others. In the gymnasium, Flynn, McCormick, Myers and Tropp competed in both basketball and volleyball with a mixed group of the kids. After the activities, each adolescent had the opportunity to interact and snag some autographs from their favorite Sabres players. The opportunity presented numerous memories, including Melissa, a client housed at the organization.
"It's a dream come true. I'm in love with MIller," she said. "[For them to come out and show that they care], it's the best thing ever. I even got his autograph and met his dog, Puck!"
WATCH: SABRES AT RENAISSANCE HOUSE
"Giving back to [the community] makes you feel like a part of the greater whole," he said. "I think that makes you really have a connection to the city, and I have been fortunate to have that in my career here where I feel that I have a connection here."
However, as for the card games, Miller was out of luck.
"I got hustled," he laughed. "A lot of bragging rights went out the window tonight [for me]."
Since 1991, the Renaissance House has helped over 1,000 adolescents suffering from alcohol and drug dependency/addiction related issues. The organization also offers academic instruction and community in-service training to prepare clients for a return to society. Jodie Altman, Director of Adolescent and Clinical Services, commented on the importance of the event.
"The community outside of here cares about [the kids]," said Altman. "The team coming here demonstrates that the community does care. ... You cannot give this memory back [to these kids]."
Sabres alum Rene Robert, who has made over 100 visits to the facility, concurred.
"These kids are young enough, that with help and counseling, can turn their lives around. To get a player like [Ryan] to come out, it can only help [the kids]. It's a big bonus for [the kids]."
-Alex Pagliano, Sabres.com Digital Content Intern
Tuesday, October 22: Buffalo City Mission
The Buffalo Sabres organization continued their Community Assist Week on Tuesday, traveling to the Buffalo City Mission to remodel a dormitory for veterans and serve community lunch.
Current Sabres Cody Hodgson, Mark Pysyk and Zemgus Girgensons served community lunch to over 75 clients. After serving warm quiche and fresh strawberries to the clients, the teammates interacted with the organization's volunteers and visitors.
Hodgson acknowledged the importance of the appearance, but also recognized the organization's volunteers.
WATCH: SABRES AT CITY MISSION
Later, the teammates joined Sabres personnel to lend a hand in coating some of the walls of the remodeled space set aside for veterans. The space accords them a sense of privacy as they work through their existing issues at the center.
"Often times, our veterans come home with post-traumatic stress disorder. As they work through their issues, they need their space," said Raine Schreiner, Director of Treatment Services at the Buffalo City Mission. "[Without the support of the Buffalo Sabres], the project would have taken a lot longer. We're absolutely grateful of their support."
Sabres alum Danny Gare, who also served lunch, hopes to come back with friends.
"It'd be nice to get some of the [Sabres Alumni] involved. Anytime you can help a person in need, I think we should take advantage of those opportunities," he said. "There's no better way to do this than remodeling a dormitory or serving lunch."
-Alex Pagliano, Sabres.com Digital Content Intern
Wednesday, October 23: Rowan Langille Tribute Night
The Buffalo Sabres concluded their Community Assist Week program on Wednesday night at the First Niagara Center with a special tribute to a remarkable young boy named Rowan Langille.
Rowan, a four-year old boy from St. Catharines, Ont., who sadly lost his battle with brain cancer this past summer, had his family, friends and classmates in attendance for the Sabres home game against the Boston Bruins.
A tribute video for Rowan was shown on the big screen during a stoppage of play in the first period.
WATCH: ROWAN LANGILLE TRIBUTE “Cheerful, happy, always smiling, first one to jump in to do things and outgoing with a big heart,” Rowan’s mother Ann Langille said fondly about her son during intermission.
“Huge hockey fan, with a really good slap shot in the driveway,” his father Shawn Langille added with a smile.
Rowan loved hockey. His older sister plays hockey and he loved going to her games. At home, he could sit and watch hockey on TV with his dad and uncles.
Ann and Shawn say ever since Rowan could walk, he was holding a hockey stick in his hand.
Last season, Rowan’s parents took him to his first ever NHL game at the First Niagara Center for a Sabres home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He even got to meet Sidney Crosby and received an autographed puck from Ryan Miller.
“It was in February. That was his first ever NHL game and he loved it. He was so excited to meet Sidney Crosby, he had a huge smile on his face,” they remembered.
Having a night at the First Niagara Center dedicated to Rowan was appreciated greatly by the Langille family.
“It means a lot; it really does because we didn’t realize how many people he touched for only being four years old, for so many people knowing who he is and what he has been through. It means a lot and we really appreciate the Sabres for bringing us here and recognizing him,” said Ann Langille.
If Rowan could have talked to the Sabres players during that intermission his parents said he would have told the team to “keep going and never ever give up.”
“Because he never gave up on anything…he never quit,” they said.
- Rob Poling, Sabres.com – Digital Content Intern