How this project came together
Last year, I reached out to Annie Camins the Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and asked if I could visit the arena to see the First Stride program in action and to shoot a video showing how they use the Skate Helper.
Annie said yes and off I went in January to the windy city. Annie and her team organized everything. They were extremely welcoming and very professional. I quickly realized how progressive the Blackhawks organization is.
I was blown away!
The arena and the First Stride program are first class all the way. Prior to Covid, the First Stride program had 360 Chicago public school students visiting the Fifth Third Arena every week. The programming for First Stride starts off by welcoming the students to the arena where they are then escorted into the locker room. In the locker room their name is proudly displayed on the cubby along with a First Stride shirt, ice skates and gloves.
After skating the students spend time in the classroom learning a S.T.E.M program. The day I visited, the students they were building robots. The students are also provided a healthy snack and a school bus ride back to school. This is all paid for by the Chicago Blackhawks. This program is so impressive and the kids love it.
First Stride is a progressive community program that engages and inspires local youth. In my opinion, this program should be rolled out to all communities where the NHL has teams.
Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams
I live in Canada and had visited Chicago before but I never had an experience like this. Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams. I was fortunate enough to attend a game at the United Center and it was unlike any other NHL game I’ve been to. I remember the game vividly as Predators goalie Pekka Rinne scored a goal on an empty net. Chicago lost 5-2. Chicago has some of the BEST fans anywhere and the best stadium food. The energy in the building played like a game 7 of the playoffs.
I want to shout out a HUGE thank you to the two women leaders at the Chicago Blackhawks who made the video happen. Annie Camins Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and Andrea Hahn – the General Manager of the Fifth Third Arena – you both are truly trailblazers working in the NHL. Thanks for sharing your positive feedback on the skate helper. I am extremely proud that the Skate Helper is part of this important community initiative.
Inspiration through sport is what First Stride is all about and I think that’s what the Chicago Blackhawks is all about. Get your Hockey Hit this upcoming week! Go Blackhawks!