Last year, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and Braden Holtby delivered laptops and tablets to the students of Hendley Elementary, a public school in DC’s Ward 8, on behalf of So Kids Can. But that wasn’t the end of their visit to the school.
On Friday, the trio returned to Hendley to surprise the students with something that will have a vital impact on its young students: a completely renovated gym.
Prior to this year, the school’s gym was an empty room with no speakers, scoreboard, or bleachers. They weren’t able to host sporting events and the school’s basketball team had to play every game on the road. But now, with their new gym, the Hendley basketball team can feel what it’s like to have home court advantage and to have a home crowd cheering for them.
“It wasn’t really a gym before,” said one of the young students. “Now I see you can turn nothing into something.”
So Kids Can teamed up with MSE Foundation and Heart of America to revitalize the gym. The players also rolled their sleeves up and worked up a sweat.
Backstrom and Holtby were on the floor helping volunteers assemble bleachers, while Wilson picked up a roller and painted the walls and gym teacher’s office a bright red.
Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, and Nicklas Backstrom are back at Hendley Elementary, this time to surprise the kids with a newly renovated gym. pic.twitter.com/ivkpdyATpf
— RMNB (@russianmachine) September 6, 2019
Elliot Segal of DC101’s Elliot in the Morning told the story of starting So Kids Can with former Capital Mike Green in 2008, and how one-by-one Backstrom, Holtby, and Wilson each saw the impact the cause was having on the community and asked how they could help.
“It’s all youth based,” Segal said, explaining the mission of So Kids Can. “It is a way, whether it’s a school to be able to give kids a facility, not only to play and have fun, but the lessons that come along with being able to play and have fun: teamwork and respect. Taking care of something that means something to you. Breaking up a day, giving you a safe place to be.”
Over the past decade, So Kids Can has turned their attention to schools, playgrounds, even pediatric oncology wards. But Segal said they knew they wanted to return to Hendley Elementary this year to give the students a place to play and call their own.
“This year – this place was important to us,” Segal said. “You should have a gym. You should have a place to play and burn it off…It’s great to be able to go to school and feel safe. But you also need a place to run around and learn how to have fun and learn how to play. And just have fun. So if it’s as simple as raising some money and getting people together and turn a facility into a gym where they can have home games and a sense of pride of being at home, then it’s worth every dollar.”
So Kids Can raised over $60,000 for the project during the 2018-19 season. Each player and Segal donated $50 per Capitals win during the regular season and $100 per Capitals win during the playoffs, as well as holding auctions during the season to raise funds from supporters.
After helping out in the gym, Backstrom, Holtby, and Wilson visited a few of the classrooms where they handed out books and even sat down to read a story. Each student went home with two new books.
Story-time with @Holts170 and @tom_wilso and each child will be going home with two new books. pic.twitter.com/RcV6WrELlq
— RMNB (@russianmachine) September 6, 2019
Hendley Principal Sundai Riggins was effusive in her thanks to the Capitals players during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She thanked them for donating their time, and to So Kids Can and MSE Foundation for their continued attention to the Ward 8 school.
“This space is completely transformed and we’re all transformed as well,” said Principal Riggins.
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