As a young athlete, Kelsey Young developed an appreciation for the sports industry as a whole. From the legions of fans that fuel sports teams, to the various charitable organizations funded by the industry, Young felt the pull to join.
Fast forward to today, that vision has come to fruition. Since August of 2015, Young has served as the Director of Charitable and Community Programs for the Charlotte Checkers.
Leading the charitable efforts of the Charlotte Checkers Foundation is no small task, considering the well-recognized philanthropy of the organization. Since 2006, the Charlotte Checkers have donated an incredible total of $3.7 million to the community. In recognition of this, The Charlotte Checkers have been awarded the American Hockey League’s Award of Excellence for Community Service, three out of the last six seasons.
When speaking about the types of initiatives the Charlotte Checkers Foundation focuses on, it’s hard not to note the owner’s involvement in the process.
“Our owner, Michael Kahn, loves the sport and even more so loves the opportunity to help out the community,” said Young.
For Kahn, it’s an understood notion that acquiring the Charlotte Checkers served as a community play for him because at the end of the day the team is a community organization.
“We wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for the people in Charlotte”, said Young.
Kahn and the Charlotte Checkers Foundation have placed special emphasis on “promoting the health, character, education and success of children and adolescents.”
“We host four school programs where we set up hockey times with players and students to highlight health and wellness all while teaching kids a bit about hockey”, said Young.
Each of the four school programs has its own theme. For example, the Science of Hockey Program educates students on the actual physics behind playing hockey. Students get hands on experience with experimenting and physical demonstrations of skating, shooting, ice-resurfacing, among other topics.
The school programs are a hit not only with the kids, but also the teachers and parents.
“My kids don't really get the opportunity to see a lot of professional players and they were just super excited that someone would take time out of their day to come teach them about science,” said Marsha Brenes, of Shamrock Gardens Elementary School.
Young says that the real treat is when longtime mascot, Chubby, comes out to spend time with the kids. “Chubby is the cutest little polar bear, and the kids go crazy over him”, said Young.
In addition to school programs, fundraising nights make up a huge portion of the foundation’s funding efforts. These fundraising events serve as high energy spirit nights for nonprofits to generate as much revenue as possible for their organization. The Charlotte Checkers funnel the support of their fan-base and team to bring attention and raise awareness for much needed causes.
“Last year alone, we worked with over 125 fundraising groups and they were able to raise $120,000,” recalled Young. Historically speaking, both numbers have grown year after year, and Young expects the trend to continue in 2017.
In addition to expanding the number of organizations, the Charlotte Checkers Foundation hopes to increase the breadth of their initiatives. “Due to our close proximity to the border, we are able to help out other nonprofits in South Carolina as well,” said Young.
One of the team’s signature events is the Pink in the Rink night, where the foundation raises awareness and funds for the fight against women’s cancers. Having hosted the event for 16 seasons, the staff and team have a special connection with the survivors and fans who come out to support the effort. Multiple organizations benefit from the funding including Pretty in Pink, Carolina Breast Friends, Cindy’s Hope Chest, and more.
Although the Charlotte Checkers boast a team of excited youth ready and willing to head out into the community, one player in particular stands out the most. Kyle Hagel, forward for the team, implemented two of his own reading programs at McClintock Middle School in Charlotte. He has spent more hours at the Checker’s scheduled school programs and makes more community appearances than any of his fellow teammates.
In recognition of his contributions to Charlotte, Hagel was awarded the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for the 2015-2016 season.
“Anytime we have any sort of community event, Hagel is always the first to sign up and show up,” said Young.
Young has high expectations for future foundation led events, and it seems that she has the right team to fulfill those expectations.