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KALAMAZOO, MI: We so often hear about all that's wrong with youth sports; so when we get a chance to share something that represents all that is right with youth sports, we LOVE to share. And, when it's from the mouth (or in this case, the pen) of a KOHA competitor about our coaches and players, well, we want to shout it from the rooftops! To say we are proud of our PeeWee B Gold Bronco coaches, players and parents, is an understatement.
This past season, through a combination of tournaments and regularly scheduled games, my kids’ team—Kentwood Falcons—played the KOHA PeeWee B Gold team eight times. With the exception of the first meeting (which we lost something like 85-0 or thereabouts in a horrendous, good-old-fashioned backyard butt whooping!), the games have all been tight contests and a thrill for both parents and kids. It has been an enjoyable and evenly-matched rivalry all season long.
After every one of their games, I immediately ask my son and daughter one question: “Was the other team a good group of kids or a not-so-nice group?” Whenever I asked them about the KOHA Gold team, they would both emphatically say “They’re really nice guys, Dad.” Or “They are not dirty or chippy at all.” Or “That’s a fun team to play. I wish we would have beat them, but they’re a fun team.”
But this past weekend, at the Clover Classic in Lansing, the KOHA Gold team upped their game to an even higher level of class and sportsmanship.
The Falcons beat the KOHA Gold team to win the tournament. After the teams finished shaking hands and the medals were handed out, parents were taking photos of the team, each on their respective end of the ice.
Then the KOHA coaches walked over to the Falcons side…and gestured to their kids to skate over for a joint team photo. The kids and coaches intermingled with each other, and with some professional help to ensure the short kids and goalies were in front, and the tall kids and coaches were in back, the cameras started snapping away.
The kids didn’t care if they were wearing dark sweaters or white sweaters. The kids didn’t care if they had a 1st or 2nd place medal around their necks. The kids didn’t care that the very same person they were standing next to in the photo shoot was the very same person they were standing next to only moments earlier—except this time they weren’t jockeying for position in front of the net or fighting for a puck! But the kids were all smiling because they had just finished a fun tournament against a respected opponent and they had collectively put the cap on a successful and memorable season.
Our Falcon kids skated off the ice with a first place medal, which they’ll hang somewhere in their room and, honestly, then they’ll misplace. But what will stick with them is the memory of that all-too-familiar KOHA Gold team skating across the ice to join them in a photo session after a tight game. One-time opponents smiling together and collectively wondering “How much longer until the next season starts and we can do this all over again?!?!?”
Years from now, my son and daughter will be telling their kids about how “after this one tournament, the other team came over and we all got together for a giant group photo. That was a first-class team. That is a special memory. That’s how sports should be played.”
Keep up the good work, KOHA!!! We’re looking forward to seeing you guys next season.
Proud parent of Kentwood Falcons #99 (Edward) and #3 (Elizabeth)
Thank you, so much for your kind words, Scott; our sport is lucky to have parents like you.
Upon reading the letter from Scott, one PW B Gold Bronco parent-coach responded, "If anyone has doubts about where to play hockey next year, this letter sums up why KOHA should be at the top of their list!" Again, we couldn't agree more. You make us all very proud.
On Friday, December 11 there is a fundraiser for a longtime member of our KOHA family. Macy has 4 kids currently playing with KOHA and was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She is recovering from one surgery, starting chemo and then radiation before another surgery. Her two daughters play for our Lady K-Wings who have organized an event at Burdick's at Wings West NEXT FRIDAY (12/11) from 6-10pm with live music and door prizes. The team will be accepting donations of any size at the door to help with Macy's medical expenses. Please join us!
In 2014, two local hockey moms (Julie Sorenson and Sarah Pernie) decided they wanted to start a group to give back to the Kalamazoo Community. The premise was simple, meet 4 times per year for a Hockey Moms Night Out where a charity benefits from each event and hockey moms get a social night out to catch up and meet other hockey moms. So far, the group has helped a local elementary school, the SPCA, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
This Thanksgiving and Christmas, the group has adopted a local family in need, and has held food collection/drop-offs leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. There are two drop-offs left for Thanksgiving donations:
Sunday, Nov. 22 from 9am-noon. Stephanie will be collecting non-perishable food donations during the KOHA apparel sale at Wings West. Then, on Monday evening (11/23) from 5-7pm also at Wings West (Sarah's husband will be taking collections).
The food will be delivered to the family on Wednesday.
Julie and Sarah are also asking their group of hockey moms - and anyone else interested in helping - to keep this family of 7 in mind when doing your Black Friday and holiday shopping, as they are all in need of winter garments.
Boy 4 - likes superheroes, cars, bubbles. Size 5T, shoe size 11
Boy 8 - likes superheroes, football, bikes. Size 8, shoe size 2
Girl 11 - likes hair stuff, nail polish, fashion. Size XL, shoe size 8 (women's)
Girl 16 - likes makeup, hair stuff (crimper, straightener, etc.). Size XL, shoe size 9 (women's)
Girl 17 -likes mall giftcards, black nail polish. Size M, shoe size 9 (wants combat boots)
Dad - needs winter clothing size XL top, 38 pants; shoe size 12
Mom - needs winter clothing size 2XL top, XL pants; shoe size 8.5
As one of the largest associations in Michigan, it can sometimes be difficult to feel connected to our KOHA family, as a whole. We are fortunate to have a large member base, filled with kiddos that are not only developing on the ice by setting and conquering personal goals throughout each season, but in many cases, also doing great things off the ice as well.
Our values include the belief that hockey serves as an effective vehicle to develop character, dignity and self-esteem; therefore, as an association, we promote a positive culture from parents, coaches and staff to instill the values of integrity, hard work, determination, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence in all activities.
We are excited to launch the KOHA KIDS FEATURE, which highlights players demonstrating character, compassion and integrity away from the ice. Our first two features (Alex Hufford and Brandon Murray) are here, and here. Please check them out if you have not already done so - they certainly make KOHA's staff and board members quite proud to call them ours.
"I got this."
Anyone who knows Brandon Murray knows that's his mantra. Now 13, Brandon was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in January of 2010, when he was 10 years old and in the middle of his Squirt House C hockey season. "His diagnosis was very unexpected. We were told in the PICU that if we'd waited to take him to the ER, he would've ended up in a coma or worse," says Brandon's mother, Hope DeJong. "During his stay at the hospital he found strength and courage that I couldn't have found and he was only 10 years old," she says. "He became determined to learn everything he could about his new 'normal' and started using his catch phrase, 'I got this'. Prior to his diagnosis he started losing interest in hockey which was concerning as the boy loves hockey!"
Since his diagnosis, Brandon has worked very hard to raise funds for JDRF and is committed to finding a cure. He has coordinated local pizza fundraisers, has ridden his bike to raise funds and awareness, and is about to participate in the JDRF One Walk (formerly Walk to Cure Diabetes) on October 10, 2015. This will be his second walk, and to-date he has raised almost $3,000 in the walks alone to find a cure. Click here to donate to Brandon's fundraising page.
This summer, Brandon was one of 163 worldwide delegates - out of 1600 applicants - to attend JDRF Children's Congress, “to make a difference for others who have T1D and for the many who don’t understand it,” says Brandon. The children, all under the age of 18, gathered from all over to meet with legislators and storm Capitol Hill to advocate for funding required for education, treatment, prevention and cure of the disease. Brandon was 1 of 3 delegates from Michigan. He met with Representative Upton, a member from Senator Peters office and provided information to Senator Stabenow's office. The trip to DC ended with the children attending a live congressional hearing to advocate and rally.
"Brandon has given a talk to a local Lions Club and is always taking the opportunity to educate others on the seriousness of Type 1. He's become an expert in a subject we hope to find a cure so no other families have to experience this life or death disease, " says DeJong. "Brandon remains an avid hockey player and advocate for T1D. He's very open about his auto-immune disease and loves to educate others. Brandon wants a cure in his lifetime and we know we are close to it. He depends on his insulin so if you see something hanging from his pocket, know that it is his insulin pump. He can have some pretty wicked blood sugar lows on and off the ice. His Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) became the newest addition to our family this summer and alerts us to highs and lows."
Brandon hopes to become a nurse and diabetes educator when he grows up. “I am most proud of being strong and not letting type 1 diabetes rule me," he says. "I want (everyone) to know that I won’t let this disease win.”
You've got this, Brandon. Your KOHA family is proud of you!
See you at the rink.
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