Rainbows for Kids All- Star Hockey Event 2017

Sometimes just a little mention of something can end up triggering something great. Six years ago, Rainbows for Kids volunteer Sherry Opich was talking to two boys at a Rainbows for Kids event and  she got a great idea.

"They told me they would really like to do something with hockey," she said. They both kept telling me they really liked hockey."

Her daughter Courtney Opich was a standout softball playet at Lindenwood University and Sherry thought the team could benefit by doing a charity event-- thus being beneficial to both groups. 

Mother and daughter got in gear and talked to Don Loberg the softball coach at the time and he enthusiastically jumped on board. They enlisted Ron Beilstein who was the coach of the Roller Hockey Team and soon an annual event was created.

On a Saturday in January, about 100 kids—both college kids and the younger kids they were entertaining all got out and had a blast. 

The college athletes treated the children from Rainbows for Kids to a fun day of playing hockey—in tennis shoes. What about the children whose cancer treatment has left them with special needs? Not to worry, they even had a girl in a wheel chair and she got out there and played. 

“She is really athletic and had a lot of fun-- you should actually see her with a basketball,” said one of the Rainbows for Kids volunteers.

Lindenwood University donates their multipurpose room at the Evans Commons building each January and for that Saturday dozens of children with cancer or other serious diseases get a chance to forget about their treatments. They get to come out and just be kids.

"Part of being an athlete is showing leadership and giving back for the people that help you become an athlete," said Opich.  "Academics are important, but you are paying it forward when you volunteer. Many athletes tutor other athletes and younger students. Sharing your talents and the things you have been taught is what matters."

The event features the college kids pairing up with children who are or were in treatment-- and their siblings. Often when a child is going through chemotherapy or radiation they are weak and unable to participate in competitive sports. Rainbows for Kids is an organization with volunteers who understand this and they do all they can to help kids have fun no matter what stage they are in. The goal is to make everyone feel welcome.

"Lindenwood is the perfect university to be involved with charities like Rainbows for Kids," said Opich.  "They have great caring students along with a very supportive coaching staff, not to mention just wonderful facilities. The administration gets behind it. It's a positive mix."

Coach Liz Kelly the new Softball  coach along with her team and Coach Ron Beilstein and his Roller Hockey Team provided a day the kids won't soon forget. Others involved include Mike Reese of the Athletic Training staff, and the university execs who approved it all.

The kids were surprised when two mascots showed up. Louie the St. Louis Blues Mascot came and visited and took pictures with the kids. Rainbows for Kids volunteer Daniel Crum is working at the Blues games and has met Louie and invited him. 

Not to be outdone by Louie, the Lindenwood University Mascot Leo the Lion also came and participated in the fun day.

The kids were all given bicycle helmets as safety was a priority that day. 

Cardinal Glennon Hospital works with Kohl’s and through the Kohls4Kids Grant, Kim Fanter and her staff took time as the kids were registered to measure each child for the correct helmet size.

The kids were excited because they got to keep the bike helmets.

The thing that always gets kids enthusiastic at parties is food, and Lindenwood University chefs Steve Giuffra, Jason McGraw and Adam Pooro, along with Nancy Tinker of Pedestal Foods, the foodservice department provided plenty of pizza. After a day of playing hockey in the multipurpose room, they all sat down together and had pizza, sodas and cookies. 

Other sponsors of the day included Greg Lucas and Sam’s Club store 8251 on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway in St. Charles, Dave Passanise and Maestro Screen Printing who helped with t-shirts for the kids and volunteers, Joanie and Alan Protzel donated some proceeds from the Joe Stone Golf Classic to help with the event.

Rainbows for Kids is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) charity (and the official charity of STLSportsPage.com). Their goal is to support families of children with cancer in the Greater St. Louis Area. They know they can't cure cancer but just want to help the families through a tough time. 

For more information on Rainbows for Kids:  http://www.stlsportspage.com/RainbowsforKids.aspx

For those on social media: Follow @Rainbow4Kids  @LU_Lions   @STLSportsPage