On Saturday, Dec. 5, the Dimond Lynx and South Wolverines hockey teams faced off for their big game at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena. But this was not your typical Anchorage School District hockey game. Because two of the top hockey teams in the state were playing for something bigger than team pride.
Using the Star Wars theme, Dimond (Rebel Alliance) and South (Empire) hockey teams decided to use the game as an opportunity to raise funds and donations for Brother Francis Shelter, the homeless shelter for adults that is run by Catholic Social Services. It provides temporary, emergency shelter for men and women, an evening meal, use of shower and laundry facilities, case management services, advocacy, job readiness and referrals for employment, permanent housing, mental health issues, and treatment options for alcohol and substance abuse. Case management services are an integral part of the program to help men and women transition from homelessness to independent living. Every night Brother Francis Shelter provides shelter for more than 250 men and women without a home.
Providing help to the community while still pushing the puck, the Dimond and South High School’s hockey teams asked players and their fellow students to donate goods and funds to Brother Francis Shelter as a part of their scheduled hockey game. The festivities included a ceremonial puck drop face off, a split-the-pot raffle, and a bid on special Star Wars-themed hockey jerseys to benefit Brother Francis Shelter. The teams and the cheerleaders all participated — proudly showing their support for Brother Francis Shelter with special messages emblazoned on their jerseys and jackets. Team supporters for both sides filled the Ben Boeke Ice Arena with Brother Francis Shelter wish list donations of blankets, gloves, hats, disposable razors, socks and heavy-duty trash bags.
Seeing these Anchorage youth rally and work to support others in their community brings to mind the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that began in December. Pope Francis asks us to put mercy before judgment, “Let us abandon all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved.” All of the people who worked together to put on this event and raise so much support have shown great mercy and love toward their fellow community members living at Brother Francis Shelter. It is so inspiring. Through their efforts, funds were raised, truckloads of supplies were collected and love was shared.
I am continually impressed by young people in our community. They care about and work hard to improve the lives of their fellow citizens all the time. We at Catholic Social Services want to express our deepest thanks to the young people at Dimond and South, and to all of their families and educators. We are so grateful for your support of the men and women at Brother Francis Shelter.
The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit cssalaska.org.