Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lotsa pizzas put Jets' kids into helmets, hockey school

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THE Winnipeg Jets True North Hockey Academy is going to be a little busier this summer thanks to a couple of generous donations Tuesday.

Pass It Forward, a local hockey program that collects gently-used equipment and passes it on to less fortunate boys and girls, received nearly $10,500 from Santa Lucia Pizza and nearly $6,700 from the Chris Glass Memorial Fund.

The money will be used in two ways. First, it will help send kids who participate in the Jets foundation's hockey academy through the winter to hockey school this summer. Second, it will be put towards arguably the most important piece of equipment that they'll need to play -- a new helmet.

Dwayne Green, executive director of the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, said used helmets lose their safety certification after a certain amount of use and with growing concern about concussions in hockey, new helmets have become a high priority.

'I thought I could find the means to collect used hockey equipment and put it to good use. Through the True North Hockey Academy, I know it's being used by kids who deserve a chance to play'

-- Kalen Qually

Green said the foundation is also preparing to announce more than $1 million in funding to youth-based programming. That's going to be in the same ballpark as last year, which is impressive considering the NHL lockout meant the number of 50-50 draws -- a primary revenue source for the foundation -- was drastically reduced during the 2012-13 hockey season.

Pass It Forward is the brainchild of Kalen Qually, a member of the Winnipeg Jets' communication staff. He got the idea about five years ago while a student in Red River College's Creative Communications program. He based it on the Koats For Kids program that collects used winter coats for underprivileged kids.

Having grown up playing hockey, he knew the cost of outfitting a player is one of the reasons why participation in the sport has suffered in recent years.

"I thought I could find the means to collect used hockey equipment and put it to good use. Through the True North Hockey Academy, I know it's being used by kids who deserve a chance to play," he said.

In the last two years, he estimated Pass It Forward has given equipment to more than 200 kids.

Kos Simeonidis, owner of Santa Lucia, raised the money for his contribution by donating $1 from every pizza sold at its six Winnipeg locations on Jets game days last season.

Growing up playing hockey in the North End, he knows first hand of many teammates and friends who had to stop playing because they couldn't afford the gear.

"Some of them were great hockey players, too. I believe the kids should be on the ice. That also helps keep them off the street," he said.

Simeonidis said he has already agreed to support Pass It Forward next year.

Chris Glass was a friend and classmate of Qually's who died last year. Money raised by the foundation, which was founded last October, will be put toward Pass It Forward's initiatives with the Jets' hockey academy.

Pass It Forward's annual hockey equipment collection drive will take place in September when donations can be dropped off at Perth's drycleaning locations.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2013 D2

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