As important as it was to Ed Snider to help youth with the game of hockey, it was even more imperative to assist kids in the game of life.
That’s why the late Flyers founder and owner started the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation some 15 years ago.
And today, nearly five years after his passing (April 11, 2016), the Foundation is going stronger than ever.
Snider recognized hockey’s potential in the Philadelphia area after his team won its first Stanley Cup back in 1974. More kids, trying to emulate the Bobby Clarkes and Bernie Parents, started playing the sport and along with it came a rink construction boom.
Later, Snider came to the realization he could help not only grow the sport on a grassroots level, but also introduce it to specific demographics, like inner-city kids.
From that movement came the decision to help the less fortunate with financial assistance for endeavors such as higher education.
One very special example of this was evident when Virlen Reyes of Kensington spoke at Snider’s memorial service at the Wells Fargo Center.
She acknowledged how the Snider Foundation helped get her into West Chester University and allowed her to graduate with honors.
Currently, some 48 children like her are involved in the Foundation’s “Goals and Assists’’ program.
According to the organization’s website, the Foundation is an “acclaimed non-profit that uses the sport of hockey to educate and empower under-resourced youth of Philadelphia to prosper in the game of life.
“Evidence-based outcomes are young citizens who:
>Achieve academic success as they matriculate from ‘Crayons through College.’
>Consistently make healthy and thoughtful life choices.
>Serve as positive role models to the next generation of Snider Hockey student-athletes.
>Realize gainful and rewarding employment.
>Give back to their community.’’
Scott Tharp, president and CEO of the Foundation, continues to carry on Snider’s vision for equality in opportunity.
He’s been involved with the project since year two and never loses focus on the ultimate goal.
“Things are as good as they’ve ever been because Ed has left us in an enviable position,’’ Tharp said during a telephone conversation. “Upon his death, he left us a nine-figure endowment which will allow us to continue the programs he wanted us to carry on with for many years to come.’’
Diversity is one of the key elements of the program. Snider stressed inclusiveness at all levels.
“Important to him was growing the sport in a specific manner in which he could reach an audience that otherwise would have considered hockey as non-traditional,’’ Tharp said. “And otherwise couldn’t afford. Hockey isn’t a cheap sport.
“Ed wanted to make it available to everyone, with a particular focus on the boys and girls in the inner city. We kept evolving as a foundation. He saw the importance of doing more than just hockey. Hockey really then became just our hook to gain and hold the attention of our kids so that we could impart much greater life lessons and develop a supplemental education service.’’
The Foundation partners with a number of area universities/colleges, including West Chester, University of Delaware, University of the Sciences, Williamson College of the Trades and Kutztown.
“In our Foundation, kids can’t just sign up for hockey,’’ Tharp said. “They have to sign up to take part in all of our services, including supplemental educational services, our nationally acclaimed life skills curriculum. And everything we do is at no cost to these kids.
“But I guess there is a cost because Ed always demanded some ‘sweat equity.’ And demanded that kids take part in community service projects as a way to pay for what we’re doing, what we’re giving them. In a sense, it ingrained a sense of the importance of giving back in our kids.’’
Long-time Snider friend and colleague Ike Richman of Ike Richman Communications points out that the Foundation has a two-times offer for those who make donations. In other words, it someone makes a donation of $1,000, the Foundation contributes an additional $2,000.
Donations can be made through the Foundation’s website: Sniderhockey.org.
Tharp and Snider met through the Arthur Ashe Legacy project. Tharp was president and executive director and Snider was a major contributer.
“He saw the impact we were making on kids there,’’ Tharp said. “Just through the sport but, again, using the sport to keep the kids interested and immersed in education programs.
“I was just so impressed by his commitment that I couldn’t say no (to joining). He was involved in the Foundation from my first day of work. In fact, if he didn’t hear from me on a near-daily basis, I would hear it from him. He’d say, ‘Why haven’t you called me, I want to know what’s going on.’
“He was just that dedicated to this.’’