Junior high students focus on children’s special needs

When seventh-grade students, Stefan Omelchuk and Christopher Bruder, were trying to decide what they would do for their required service project, they knew it had to involve two things: their love for the game of hockey and helping kids with disabilities.

Stefan and Christopher attend St. John the Baptist Middle School, also known as Juan Diego Catholic High School, which requires that all students complete a “Catholic Connection” service project to further their understanding of the Catholic belief in service to others.

It was their love of the game of hockey and their connections with the Utah Grizzlies that led to them organizing a fundraising event to benefit Kids Who Count, a nonprofit early intervention program in Nebo School District that serves the special health care needs of children in Utah County.

When explaining why they chose Kids Who Count as the benefactor of the event, Omelchuk said, “Me and my teammates are pretty lucky to get to play hockey. Some kids need help just to walk or talk. We wanted to help them.”

The fundraising event will take place on Feb. 27 at the Maverik Center, where the Utah Grizzlies will take on the Maine Mariners. Discounted tickets to benefit Kids Who Count can be purchased by contacting them at (801) 423-3000. Additionally, volunteers will be selling foam pucks to chuck on the ice for a chance to win $100. Proceeds from these sales will go directly to Kids Who Count.

We most often hear stories about high school, college or professional athletes when they are negative. It is refreshing to know that many of our youth at many of our schools are encouraged to give back to their communities instead of just playing a sport. Whether the requirement comes from the school or from a coach who knows that the value of an athlete goes beyond what they can do on the field or the court, we need to encourage more schools and coaches to follow this lead.

I would also like to remind everyone about Utah Valley University men’s basketball “Night for Autism” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23. Tickets are free and special accommodations are available for individuals with disabilities. Go to http://goUVU.com/tickets, create an account and enter autism19 for your free tickets.

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