Eight-year-old Ryan Pratt understands the value of passing the puck to his teammates to score a goal, and is now seeing the same value of teamwork with a summer community service project.
The second grader at Mount Rock Elementary School -- along with his entire hockey team -- is raising money to help cover the cost for a Veteran to obtain a service dog.
His hockey coach, Adam Flod, challenged the Central Pennsylvania Lawmen Youth Hockey team to raise $5,000, so a Veteran doesn't have to pay out of his/her own pocket to obtain an animal from Susquehanna Service Dogs, a Keystone Human Services program dedicated to supporting people to live their best lives in the community.
The challenge was meant for the players, who were selected to the team largely based on their leadership skills, to go above and beyond.
“We wanted the players to see from start to finish the impact that they made,” Flod said, explaining they wanted something tangible for the players to target in their fundraising goals.
Flod noted it's been fulfilling as a coach to see the players collaborate about ideas for fundraising in the locker room, as well as hear them using the word “we” versus “I” when talking about the project.
Ryan alone has traveled to many of the businesses in Newville to interact with new people and collect donations.
“The coach wanted them to get out in the community and meet others,” said Allison, Ryan’s mother who served in Iraq for 12 years as a member of the Army (NJ) National Guard.
The employees will often ask Ryan questions about playing hockey, in which he responds proudly about the team sport that has taught him so much.
While teammates are working individually to raise funds, the team is also working together toward the same goal.
“Ryan has been pretty determined,” Allison said. “They’ve been competitive among one another, but it’s a friendly competition.”
The young hockey player has also set up a “Fill the Skate” table at Beverage Express in Carlisle on two separate occasions in an effort to raise funds.
Ryan has amassed $1,168 alone -- about a quarter of the team’s total funds raised -- or as his coach has described Ryan’s effort: “He has just been killing it.”
Allison said some of the boys, including Ryan, have put their own savings toward the project.
“I absolutely love watching him,” Allison said. “He has no fear of anything. He will walk up to anybody, and tell them what this means to him.”
As a team, they have raised more than $4,400, and have participated in a number of group fundraising events, like an Independence Day Bootcamp in Lower Allen Township, organized by teammate Lucas Harder.
Veteran Bob Lighty has become one of the faces of Susquehanna Service Dogs, and spoke to the team on the holiday about how the dogs give Veterans back their freedom and independence they may have lost from serving.
Hockey is a large part of what defines Ryan. He started skating when he was 2 years old, and was playing his first hockey game by age 3. He is now in his fifth hockey season, the first with the brand new summer team, including players from across central Pennsylvania. The team has 25 members, both boys and girls. The team is broken into a younger and older team, ages 8 and younger (Mite), and 12 and younger (Pee Wee).
For Ryan, military service is also in his blood -- not just his mother -- but his two uncles, Nathan and Tom Gilmore.
Nathan served in Iraq for six years as a member of the Army (NJ) National Guard. Tom served in Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years as a member of the Army. Allison said this project has been a little extra special for them being part of a military family.
The hockey season ends this weekend, but the team plans to continue fundraising through the end of the summer.
“The main objective was to get a Veteran a dog,” Flod said. “And, we are going to blow past that pretty quickly.”
As a result, the team will be shooting to raise another $5,000 for a second dog.
To donate via cash or check, email: Allisonpratt0225@gmail.com, or visit: www.gofundme.com/f/vknn3-a-cause-i-care-about-needs-help.