Sharks sink teeth into community programs

by Kelly Mullen || AHL On The Beat Archive

According to newspaper columnist George F. Will, “sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.” An overtime goal, the thrill of a shootout save, helping an opponent off the ice after a hard hit, reading to children after school… One of these is not like the others. Or is it?

The Worcester Sharks develop and encourage excellence on the ice, with eight players already moving up to play for the NHL affiliate San Jose this season. Standing out and making plays when everyone is watching displays excellence, but what is done outside of the rink – when few are watching – is what cultivates it.

Since their establishment in Worcester four years ago, the Sharks have been dedicated to making their community a better place.

Sharks President and CEO Michael T. Lehr said, “We made a promise from day one that the Sharks would be a fixture in the Worcester community.”

With over 170,000 residents, Worcester certainly isn’t a small town. Reaching the community in a meaningful way while building a lasting relationship and creating a sudden impact was a large task to take on.

The Sharks are extremely involved in community programs that encourage the positive development of children. By reading in schools through the Reading is Cool program, making community appearances with players and mascot Finz, and reinforcing their commitment to service, the Sharks are making waves with the help of some other big players in the Worcester community.

The “Be a Leader” Community Service Day is the premier showcase of the leadership of the Sharks and the Law Firm of Abigail Williams and Associates. For the past two years, these organizations have joined together and made waves in Worcester.

This year, Consigli Construction teamed up with the “Be a Leader” troops and volunteered their equipment and services of ten project managers to revamp the Elm Park Community School in Worcester. 

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The Elm Park Community School was chosen from several entries to the Sharks’ Web site as this year’s venue for a makeover. Some of the projects completed include the reconfiguration of the main entrance, painting of the basketball court and personalized artwork inside the school, construction of new benches, and refurbishing the outdoor walkway.

“The Sharks got everything accomplished today that would’ve taken us 20 years to complete. We cannot thank everyone enough,” said Rob Pelczarski, vice-principal of the Elm Park Community School.

Created during the 2007-08 season by the Sharks and the Law Firm of Abigail Williams and Associates, the “Be a Leader” program is designed to provide students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades with leadership tips to enrich their lives as well as others around them.

Sharks players, staff, Finz, and Abby Williams, the principal owner of the Law Firm of Abigail Williams and Associates, lead assemblies at the schools.

Some of the topics touched upon during these assemblies are injury prevention, school and community safety, peer/group leadership and healthy choices and lifestyles.

Last season, the organization marked the first annual “Be a Leader” Community Service Day. The Sharks players and staff and the Law Firm of Abigail Williams and Associates chose the Clark Street Community School in Worcester as the location for the debut of their community service initiative. Both organizations took a day off from work and donated their time and efforts toward creating a new hockey surface, re-doing the basketball court and baseball field, and developing a new service road for the school.

The Worcester Sharks players and staff are committed to setting a positive example for children in Worcester and the surrounding communities and are grateful that partner organizations such as the Law Firm of Abigail Williams and Associates and Consigli Construction are willing to offer their time for the cause.
The balance of community involvement and talent as athletes is what makes the Worcester Sharks stand out in the sea of AHL teams. Whether they’re swimming in the front of the pack or somewhere in the middle, the Sharks will forever be leaders in Worcester.