Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hockey in the Hood Day 4: Carlson Foundation and Lenny

On the last day of hockey camp we had a visit from the Carlson Family Foundation. They support youth at-risk and mentoring programs. DinoMights fits within their guidelines, and they have been supporting us for the last few years. Periodically, granters like to visit to see first hand what an organization is like, and to get to know them better. On this visit they were hoping to meet a volunteer that grew up in the program. Initially, I was sure that Lenny would be there, but he couldn't make it to Day 4. I let him tell you why in his video.

The Carlson Foundation visitors were very touched by Lenny's words and story. We are very thankful for Lenny. He has been an excellent volunteer over the last year. We are also thankful for what God is doing in Lenny's life. He had some rough times over the years, but now he is in a very good place. He really is in a good place to be a mentor to younger DinoMights youth. In fact, he will be going to Kids Across America Camp this week as an adult leader. It is the first time that a former DinoMights participant has gone to this camp as a leader.

Lenny, we're proud of you! Have an amazing and Blessed trip to KAA!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hockey in the Hood: Day 3 Nordy

Hockey in the Hood Camp Day 3 was all about Nordy, the Mascot of the Minnesota Wild.

The kids got started with their usual skating drills, and then Nordy made his grand entrance. The response was not exactly what Nordy is used to. Let me put it this way. Most of the kids on this rink barely know what hockey is. They know it is on ice and they know you skate, but that is about it at this point. Moreover, even less of them know what the Minnesota Wild is (we're building a whole new fan base here at hockey in the hood).

So their actual response was more of an inquisitive stare than boisterous screaming. That being said they warmed up to Nordy pretty fast.

They were allowed to do a Question and Answer Session in which they could only ask yes/no questions. Most of the questions revolved around what kind of animal Nordy is. "Are you a fox?" one child asked.
Nordy shrugged as if to say, "I don't know."

"He doesn't know what kind of animal he is," I said.
The kids persisted. "Are you a wolf?"
"I don't know," Nordy shrugged.
"Are you a bear?"

Later we split up into groups and played fun games. One group had a parachute, another got to shoot pucks into the goal against Nordy as the Goalie. Finally we wrapped up with a fun game of ships across the ocean. Nordy was "It" of course.

I had the idea that Nordy should stand by the door and kids could give him a high five on the way out. Here's what really happened: Kids piled up for hugs instead. They all fell over in a hockey heap. Oh well, the kids liked it.

On the way home I asked some of the kids what was their favorite part. One boy replied, "The parachute . . . and . . . The Bear!" Short pause, "No he was a beaver. Nobody asked him if he was a beaver. He didn't have a tail, and beavers don't have tails, so he must be a beaver."

"Actually beavers do have tails," I said. (I'm a member of the zoo: see

"No, he is a beaver," another child said, "and a bear, and a wolf. He's all the animals"

We didn't really settle on anything, but the last theory is pretty compelling. No matter what kind of animal our mascot friend may be I think 18 new DinoMights will definitely remember their first hockey experience for a long time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hockey in the Hood Camp: Day 2

It was pouring rain for Day 2 of Hockey in the Hood Camp! The day began with Eric, Leah, and me carrying hockey bags up the stairs from our storage area to the DinoMights vans out in the rain. Leah, wore a rain coat. Eric and I were soaked.

Then at the arena we carried all those bags, plus sticks, plus other odds and ends into the arena. We had help, but we didn't want the kids out in the rain for any longer than they had to be. So we carried all those bags in through the rain. Leah had a rain coat. Eric and I were soaked.

In the end camp started on time and everything went smoothly from a logistical perspective. However, it got me wondering. How Much work really goes into making this camp possible. How Many total bags do we carry (Some people go to the gym to stay in shape, I carry hockey bags. You should see my trapezius muscles at the end of the hockey season. It will help me with those 70 push ups that I owe tonight!). What does it all add up to? So here's what I want to know this Wednesday:

1) I want to know math.

50 kids on the ice

18 New DinoMights

36 wobbly legs

About 20 kids I can't believe are not little Mites anymore.

About 2 that are now taller than me

12 kids who have grown so much that they have out grown their equipment

Infinite Smiles!

Looks like it adds up to something good!

Check the page tomorrow to see highlights from Day 3 and our visit from Nordy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hockey In the Hood Camp: Day 1

It was a successful first day of Hockey Camp!

One thing that makes DinoMights great is the overall culture of love and respect. Our new kids picked up on that right away. Several of the coaches commented how quickly the new DinoMights caught on. Not just things on the ice, but off as well. They really seemed to catch on in the locker room, they were helpful cleaning up, and they behaved really well.

Night one had all the action that you would expect from brand new hockey players. Keep in might that many of the kids attending last night had learned skating, but not hockey. So we had many of the collisions resulting from new skaters who don't yet know how to stop, which of course led to the classic falls of small children trying to learn something new that warm our hearts every time.

But, I'd have to say the thing that stood out most to me was how well the new kids have embraced how DinoMights act.

This leads me to make 2 observations:

1) Kids do well when they have high expectations

We run a tight ship at "Hockey in the Hood Camp." That is what it takes to have a large number of kids sharing the locker rooms and the ice. Moreover, we believe that our students should get the same summer hockey clinic experience as those with the financial means to enroll in big time camps. So we expect kids to listen, we expect things to stay on time, and we have a plan B for about anything that could go wrong.

Here's how the kids respond: They thrive. Hockey is a safe place to be. There are clear boundaries and clear expectations. They know what to do and how to act. The kids don't have to be on the defensive, they don't have to "watch their backs", because they know that this is a place where they are loved and there won't be negative surprises.
(See Search Institute Assets number 16; Also see Thriving and Sparks)
2) Stereo-typing is not reliable

What I just said about expectations is actually true for all kids. It is true for any kids that are given that kind of opportunity. It really doesn't matter if they are Latino, Black, White, Rich, or Poor. Kids are kids. One cannot assume that just because we are 'Hockey in the Hood' we are also a group of unruly ragamuffins. Actually, many of us are ragamuffins, to borrow the term from Brennan Manning, however given an environment where we are allowed to Thrive we will all give our very best expression of joy to the world.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hockey in the Hood Camp Preview

Tonight will mark day one of DinoMights 'Hockey in the Hood Camp'. Kids will get a chance to do something fun and positive right after school gets out. Most importantly, 18 New DinoMights will get their first taste of ice hockey and the Dino family.

With so many new kids we had to make some schedule changes to accommodate everyone. So tonight will just be Mites and Mini-Mites (Those are the youngest groups we have. The new players are on Mini-Mites). Tuesday and Wednesday all the kids will be present, but thankfully we'll be able to use rink dividers courtesy of Sport Resource Group to help keep the age groups on their own section of the rink. Thursday will be just the Squirts and above doing one of their faviorite activities, Scrimmaging!

Over the next few nights all the age groups will get a chance to learn some skills and spend time having some "cold" summer fun. There are always crazy relay races and pure summer fun. We have a few special guest coming to visit this week as well. On Wednesday we will have Nordy, the mascot of the Minnesota Wild. On Thursday, friends from the Carlson Family Foundation will be coming to visit and learn more about DinoMights.

Blog Readers can expect to see some fun pictures and hopefully some fun stories over the next couple of days. Also, I owe 70 push ups from the Camp Scholarship challenge last week. Hockey camp will be a good place to do that. So Stay Tuned this week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I want to know Wednesday

1) I want to know if anyone out there has a 15 passenger van, mini-bus, or other large vehicle that they want to donate.

New Kid Update:

18 New DinoMights!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Kid Update

Wow, we have a lot of new kids.

It is kind of blowing my mind. Actually, having two Learn 2 Skates is really going to change our cozy year round schedule. I mean, we are going to have to get some more ice time, and more volunteers, and more staff, and more vehicles, and more . . . well you get the picture. It is a good problem to have when God provides beyond your own imagination. (Eph. 3:20-21)

15 New DinoMights!!!
. . . and a few more about to sign up too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Graduating and Growing Up

James with his mom and diploma

"I'm James' mom."
I hesitated. I mentally went through all the names of kids on the team. No James. Noticing my confusion, James' mom said, "Paco."
"Oh, Paco! Yeah, he's great. We're so glad he's on the team."
That was January of 2001. It was my first year coaching at DinoMights. All the kids were new to me, but I thought that by now I knew all their names. As it turned out, I'd gone two months coaching the team before I found out that Paco's real name was James. And, as it turned out James/Paco and I got to know each other pretty well since then.

James was in fourth grade when I met him, just a young boy. That summer at KAA I remember playing basketball with him during free time. We played on the 7 foot hoop. I suppose it was more his size then. During that camp, James heard the good news about Jesus and believed it.
He has always been one of those kids that made me remember why I was doing this job; why DinoMights was a good thing; most of all why caring about people is a good thing. During his sixth and seventh grade years he was part of a group of three boys that got together with me weekly to have fun and learn Bible Stories. We alternated between acting out the stories like a play and talking about the stories over smoothies from Sola Squeeze. He was a Willie O'Ree All-Star as a seventh grader. He read scripture at my wedding as an eighth grader.

In high school, James excelled at Football. He was a top 10 wide receiver in the State of Minnesota last year and featured in the Star Tribune. He was also the captain of his team. When he was elected Homecoming King all the kids were calling him "King James." He humbly replied, "Jesus is the real king."

James with his dedicated tutor, Leah

Last night was James graduation. At first I didn't think I could make it, but Kari reminded me of something that James' mom said a year ago. She said, "I want you all [coaches, tutors, etc.] to be at James' graduation. You've all been a part of the family that helped me raise my son."

How could I ever miss this?

He walked in with his class looking more like a young man than the fourth grade boy whose name I didn't know, with the biggest ear to ear grin. When they announced his name, it was by far the loudest cheer of the evening, as friends and family all celebrated the monumental moment.

I cited James Walsh of the Star Tribune last week who said in June 2007 that 58% of African Americans do not graduate from high school in Minnesota. The figures are even more grim for African American Men like James. Graduation from high school really is a big deal. The difference this event will make in the future of a young man like James is enormous.

Today, I got to speak to James on the phone. I asked him how it felt to cross the stage. He said, "I felt pretty grown up."

Closed Circuit to James: You will have more growing up to do. But I agree, I think you've grown up, and I was very honored to be a part of that process.

Congratulations Paco!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Kid update

I have a really great story to tell. Tonight I went to James' graduation! I'll tell more about what it meant to be there tomorrow, and I'll post pictures.

In the meantime, here's a new kid update:

we are up to . . .

10 New DinoMights!!!

These are all from families that participated in Learn 2 Skate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Soaring Penguins Graduating from High School

Bill Guerin of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses with DinoMights at the 2004 All-Star Breakfast

On previous "I want to know Wednesdays" I've been asking a lot of questions about this year's NHL Playoffs. I want to let you know that I have decided on cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since my hometown team is out, most of my playoff support decisions are based on DinoMights relationships. I was really pulling for Willie Mitchell and Vancouver (even though they are a rival of the Wild) because Willie was a good friend of our program while he was here. They lost, so I had to find a new team. The Penguins vs. Capitals series was an absolute gem, and I started pulling for Alex Ovechkin and the Caps. There is a great video on of Ovechkin visiting our friends in the Hockey is for Everyone Initiative, Fort Dupont Hockey Club of Washington D.C.. Alas, they lost too. Finally, my choice came down to this: do I root for Detroit, because we visited Detroit for the Hockey the Hood Tournament. Or, do I go with my gut and cheer on the young Pittsburgh Penguins that everyone seems to think are the future of the NHL? Then I remembered, "Bill Guerin of the Penguins posed for a picture with some DinoMights during the 2004 All-Star Weekend in St. Paul, MN!" That clinched it.

And that leads to my questions for the day . . .

1) I want to know how high these kids can soar!

Pictured with Bill Guerin are Tryphena, Rhomina, Jessica, Cesar, Kelsey, Rhobelle, and Aaron. They are 19-21 years old now (I can't believe it). Every single one of them has graduated from high school. Six of them have attended some kind of college or university (If any of you are reading, leave a "where are you now" on the comments). One is abroad doing military service. They are working, serving, valuable members of their communities!

2) I want to know why beautiful kids like these are the exception rather than the rule.

I often quote an article titled Mixed Reviews for State's Graduation Rates, by James Walsh from the Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 12, 2007) in my grant applications. According to Walsh less than 10% of non-high school graduates earn more than $35,672 annually and most of those are concentrated in the lowest earning bracket with a median income of just $12,638. That is not a living wage for the 58% or African American and 36% of Asian students that do not graduate high school in Minnesota.

At the present time we are celebrating a 3rd straight year of 100% graduation. It was Cesar, Kelsey, Rhobelle, Aaron, and Rhomina's class that got us started on this perfect roll. It may not last forever, but I'm confident the last three classes are strong evidence that DinoMights provides some of the sparks that make a lasting impact.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Kids

I've been a bit under the weather so there was no new blog entry yesterday. Also, we've been very busy visiting the homes of new DinoMights!

If you've been following the blog you read a lot about Learn 2 Skate this spring. Well, now we are inviting many of those Learn 2 Skate kids to join our program year round. We actually go right to the homes of the kids, meet their families, and tell them that we are more than just skating lessons.

It is so fun to see the joy in the faces of the kids as the recognize us. "Hey! You are the skating guys!"

The current count of new DinoMights is:

6 New DinoMights

We'll keep you updated over the next few days. Also, I'll keep the giving widget up for supporting camp scholarships until Friday. In fact, I'll extend the push-ups challenge until then as well. I will personally do one push-up for every dollar raised online for camp scholarships!