By Tyler Hall
OXFORD, Ohio - After being named CCHA Player of the Year, First-Team All-CCHA and Second-Team West All-America in 2009-10, one would expect Cody Reichard to have nothing on his mind except hockey. However, the Miami RedHawks' junior goaltender has devoted a portion of his time to developing a new way for him and his teammates to give back to the community.
Swoop's Stoop is an initiative that Reichard began this year as an effort to help sick children in surrounding area hospitals. The goal of the program is to get the ill kids out of the hospital and into the arena. Miami's hockey team plans to host a different group of children once every home stand while Reichard hopes Swoop's Stoop will carry on even after he leaves Oxford.
"The object is to get as many different kids into the games just to get them out of the hospital for the night," says Reichard. Each kid will be given tickets to the game, a t-shirt and vouchers for food and popcorn while being recognized for attending during the game. Following the contest, the children will be given a tour of the locker room and have a meet and greet with all of their favorite members of The Brotherhood, where they will interact with players, get autographs and take photos. "The idea is to get them to feel special, and hopefully give them a good night so they can forget about their worries and troubles for at least a night," says Reichard.
In addition to bringing the children to Steve Cady Arena, approximately once a month Swoop (Miami's feathery mascot), Reichard, and some of his fellow teammates and coaches will travel to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and visit with the kids in their daily environment. Reichard, junior Alden Hirschfeld, sophomore Joe Hartman and Swoop made their first visit last Sunday (Oct. 24), interacting and playing with kids while bringing autographed rally towels for the children to keep. Each of the kids will be given a Swoop's Stoop bracelet and t-shirt to commemorate their involvement in the program while Swoop and members of the team will play with the children, hoping to bring a smile to their face and get them to laugh despite being sick in a hospital.
The inspiration for Swoop's Stoop came to Reichard from talking with his goalie coach in Indianapolis over the summer and seeing the example set by other athletes, who help in their communities. "I know when (goaltender) Curtis Joseph played at Edmonton he had a pretty similar thing to get kids out of the hospital for a night and just into the game," says Reichard.
Although Reichard came up with the idea, the program would not have gotten off the ground if not for some help from Miami associate athletic director Josh Fenton, who Reichard said went "above and beyond" to get it started, and some financial backing from Step Resources, who sponsors Swoop's Stoop.
"We wanted to support an idea that developed out of character and doing the right thing," says Greg Elam, CEO of Step Resources. "It's simple, it was Cody's idea and it's a privilege to jump on board and sponsor such a great program. It's a tribute to Coach (Enrico Blasi) for teaching these guys about character and we're a small piece that helps fund it."
The RedHawks are setting a great example themselves this year with all they are doing to give back to their community, as the team considers themselves role models in Oxford and the surrounding areas, and they are grateful for everything the fans do for them. "After all the support we get from pep rallies and different things that the townspeople do for us, we can never do enough to repay them," says Reichard. The Brotherhood is doing its best to try and reciprocate the support they have received from the community in as many ways as possible.
Swoop's Stoop is not the first time Miami has helped sick children this year however, as the RedHawks were selected to adopt three-and-a-half-year-old Michael Quintero, who suffers from a brain tumor, through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which pairs college athletic teams with children who suffer from pediatric brain tumors. Michael has become a part of The Brotherhood, complete with his own jersey and locker, while attending several games and visiting players in the locker room.
The RedHawks learn from their experiences with Michael Quintero and Swoop's Stoop as well. Seeing how difficult all of the children's lives are can put anyone's life in perspective. The players come to realize that the challenges they face on the ice are nothing in comparison to the struggles these children face on a daily basis. Swoop's Stoop will be a beneficial program for everyone involved, but the main goal is to give the kids something to be happy about for a change. "You realize hockey isn't everything and just being able to give back will hopefully put a smile on the kid's face," says Reichard.