When the Westchester Warriors aren’t fighting for the puck on the ice, they’re fighting for others off it — and the off-ice fight is the game-changer.
The youth hockey program, made up of 11, 12 and 13-year olds mainly from the greater New York Metropolitan area, have dedicated themselves to helping others less fortunate. Their focus on providing a service for others was adopted from one of its early supporters, Fordham Preparatory School, and its focus on providing service for others as its guiding principal. This past weekend, the Westchester Warriors concluded its 2017 campaign in Stanley Cup fashion by proudly presenting a check for more than $100,000 to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, an advanced care pediatric hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. that is part of the Westchester Medical Center.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our players and families, and their collective dedication and focus to The Westchester Warriors,” coach Denis Dufresne, one of the co-founders of the Westchester Warriors, said. “It has been incredible to see the unselfish efforts of so many coaches, managers, players and family — all for the benefit of others and without any expectation of something in return.”
The Westchester Warriors program has a simple approach: use the love of the game to help others and to teach life lessons to their players and those that they play against through the application and focus on providing service for others. What started out four years ago with the goal of finding and molding a group of kids willing to dedicate their time, on-and-off-the-ice, to raising funds to benefit children’s cancer research, has grown into a formidable contributor to the fight against pediatric cancer.
With the guidance of Warriors’ co-founder Luis Panchame, whose vision originally prompted the idea with his mother’s battle with stage four pancreatic cancer, and fellow coaches and team managers Ron Vitale, David Rosenberg, Scott Sanders, Vince Cappello, Jason DeSalvo, Carmine D’Elia, Tina Cappello, Oren Glick, Ryan Koresky, Chris Evans and Melissa Subin, the Westchester Warriors have become a program that very specifically provides its players with an understanding of how fortunate they are to be able to play the great game of hockey, and to put that understanding into practice by using their love of the game to provide a service for others by raising money and spreading the message for other children who are less fortunate.
“When I put on the Warriors jersey, I skate for all the kids who can’t,” Christopher Frey, a member of the Warriors’ 2005 team, said.
Since the program’s inception, fundraising has exceeded all expectations. In its first season in the summer of 2014, the Westchester Warriors raised over $12,000, 100 percent of which went to “A Kids Brain Tumor Cure Foundation.” In 2015 and 2016, while fielding two teams from birth years 2004 and 2005, the Westchester Warriors raised an aggregate of approximately $25,000 for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. In 2017, the Westchester Warriors added a 2006 birth year team, and two incredibly driven fundraisers in Melissa Subin and Oren Glick. With three teams in the mix and a focused fundraising effort, the Warriors achieved its 2017 goal of raising at least $100,000.
“The Westchester Warriors started as a small idea and grew into something life-changing,” Panchame said. “This is only possible through the support of our early supporters and the gathering of our dedicated families. The Westchester Warriors is intentionally transparent, with 100% of all donations go straight to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. We are honored to have partnered with such a great group in Maria Fareri, which includes Karen Ashe and her team as well as Dr. Mitchell Cairo and his unparalleled resume and reputation.”
“The subtle feature of what we are trying to accomplish through the Westchester Warriors is what we call the ripple effect,” Dufresne added. “The ‘ripple effect’ refers to our vision of how our Warriors participants, as well as those we play against and those for whom we dedicate our efforts, will give of themselves in the future for the benefit of others in the future as they age into adulthood and parenthood.”
There is no shortage of pride among those who are fortunate enough to be a part of the Westchester Warriors. Below is a small sampling of sentiments from participants:
“While the real heroes are the patients fighting cancer, the ripple effect has trickled down through players, their parents and families, and even their opponents on the ice, in a tremendous collaboration with volunteers who are dedicated to the cause. The way each patient fights every day, just to have another day, teaches us all how resilient the human spirit is. They are an important inspiration for what the Westchester Warriors are all about.” Ron Vitale, co-founder and 2004 Manager.
“Being part of the Warrior family over the past couple of years has truly been a feel-good experience. Hockey aside, the sense of being deeply involved in something so important and so impactful brings about the greatest satisfaction. Hearing about the wonderful tales and accomplishments of Maria Fareri can be an inspiration to anyone. Without question, Maria Fareri is a very special place. Witnessing their remarkable work with children in need has been a life-changing event for my son Andrew. We sincerely hope we can continue supporting such an outstanding organization for many years to come.” — Eric, Faith and Andrew Ferringer
“I would like to think that every parent would want to teach their children to have empathy and compassion for others and to be grateful for what they have no matter what their situation which would include good health. This may not always be an easy accomplishment at a young age and sometimes you would not know until they are adults what they have actually absorbed. But with the Westchester Warriors, our children have been able to see first-hand what caring about others can do, the difference someone can make. This organization has enabled these youth hockey players an opportunity to give back while doing something they love and are passionate about. That passion has extended into raising money for other children facing a challenge that most of us as adults cannot even understand. There is a quote by Carlos Castaneda that comes to mind when thinking about these young hockey warriors: ‘Nobody is born a warrior. You choose to be one when you refuse to stay seated. You choose to be one when you refuse to back down. You choose to be one when you stand up after getting knocked down. You choose to be one because if not you, who?’” — Lora and Jason DeSalvo
“This was our third year that we participated with the Warriors. We are very proud of what the teams have accomplished. It is important for the boys to know that they can do more for others in need. My son is very proud of himself and is dedicated to help other children. It’s not about just playing hockey, it’s about playing hockey for a purpose, knowing that you are helping a human being in need.” — Vince and Anthony Cappello
“Playing with the Warriors was great because I could play my favorite sport, hockey, and get to help children. I was a patient at Maria Fareri children’s hospital when I was younger so I am happy to give back and hopefully help more children.” — Christine and Colin Cody
“The Westchester Warriors hockey team has been an amazing experience for players and parents alike. It has given my son an opportunity to use his love of hockey to benefit other children in need. The Warrior family continues to grow and we are so proud to be a part of such a special organization!” — Alex and Cameron Bayha
If you would like to learn more about the Westchester Warriors Charity Hockey Program, or support their march towards their new goal of reaching the $250,000 aggregate raise, please visit www.westchesterwarriorshockey.com
While the Westchester Warriors cannot thank everyone enough for their time and efforts, they would like to acknowledge the following: Brewster Ice Arena, California Closets, E.J. Murray’s Skating Center, Fordham Preparatory School, Hostar International Inc., Pottery Barn and MJX Asset Management.
All images are courtesy of the Westchester Warriors
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