by Josh Fisher || AHL On The Beat Archive
As the Texas Stars opened their inaugural season in 2009, the team and management focused their ambitions on reaching athletic strides and providing quality, affordable family entertainment, while simultaneously establishing the team as a permanent fixture within the Central Texas Community.
Making a nearly successful run for the Calder Cup, the AHL’s top prize, offering tickets for as little as $8, and making more than 100 player appearances throughout the community, it seemed that the Stars were exceeding expectations, yet the bar was raised for the team’s second season.
During the inaugural season, the Texas Stars partnered twice with the American Red Cross: Hockey in Haiti, an evening to raise funds and awareness after the devastating earthquake; and a military appreciation night to support troops deployed domestically and abroad. After the team’s playoff success, Stars president Rick McLaughlin made a push to expand the team’s altruistic efforts into an official charity. Not long after, the team introduced the Texas Stars Foundation.
The foundation’s efforts began as early as opening weekend, and the first month of the regular season was showcased by Pink in the Rink, an evening designed to promote breast cancer awareness and support the Austin affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. With a roaring crowd of nearly 6,000, the Texas Stars wore pink jerseys highlighting the breast cancer awareness ribbon and even incorporated pink sticks during warm ups to heighten interest for the cause.
Throughout the game, the foundation ran a silent auction accepting bids for player signed memorabilia, as well as the jerseys off of the players’ backs. The evening raised more than $25,000 for the Texas Stars Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Even the Ice Girls got involved, kicking off their dancing shoes for sneakers as they ran in the Race for the Cure.
As the season progressed, the foundation turned its attention to “Movember,” a month-long awareness campaign for prostate cancer and men’s health issues. The Texas Stars players grew moustaches for the charity in honor of assistant coach Paul Jerrard, a survivor of the deadly illness. By the end of the month, the players were in the top 10 percent of funds raised in the Central Texas area, and they helped the team Austin Movember crew raise more than $30,000.
Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, fans participating in HEB Nights at the Cedar Park Center brought in more than 238 pounds of food to be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.
As the holidays approached, the foundation began work spreading holiday cheer. While the player wives and girlfriends made charity baskets for a local domestic abuse shelter, the players and their families also designed custom holiday ornaments to benefit the foundation. The fundraiser brought in more than $4,000 to support local military families, elementary schools, youth sports, and other causes. The Texas Stars Fans even participated by donating toys to the foundation’s Blue Santa Drive.
In the spirit of the season, the Texas Stars players made a special trip to Dell Children’s Hospital, spreading cheer throughout the wings of the largest children’s hospital in the region. Armed with giveaways and items to be autographed, nearly the entire team took time out of their schedule to visit with the children.
Texas defensemen Philip Larsen was more than welcome to play video games with some young patients, while others went room by room to visit with the children and their families.
“It’s extremely rewarding and at the same time it makes you thankful for the things that you have,” said stars forward Cody Chupp. “It’s great to see those kids get a smile on their face and have a brighter day if we stop in. If they are happier because you visit, there is no better feeling in the world.”
With the start of the new year, the foundation is gearing up for its first major fundraising event, Casino Night, featuring an evening of entertainment and interaction with the players in a gaming capacity, including poker, blackjack, and a variety of games. Shortly afterward, the team will make multiple appearances for Read Across America, a national campaign to increase interest in reading among elementary and preschool-aged children.
In recognition of our nation’s heroes, the Texas Stars will host another Military Appreciation Night in early March, with proceeds from the foundation’s efforts benefitting the construction of a local Veterans Memorial Park.
Throughout the season, the Texas Stars have shown their support of our local troops, donating more than 500 tickets to soldiers stationed at nearby bases like Fort Hood and Camp Mabry, as well as military-serving charities like Heroes Night Out, a non-profit designed to provide wounded veterans and their families with an evening of entertainment away from the stress and routine of recovering from injuries.
As the hockey season progresses, the Texas Stars Foundation expands, continuing to make donations and collaborate with charities and youth organizations throughout the Central Texas area in support of the team’s goals of winning games, giving back to the community, making a difference.