“I believe that children are our future.” Whitney Houston sang it, but I think we all believe it. There are stories in the 24-hour news cycle all the time about young people in our country and in our communities making a negative impact. My experience though, is different. Time and time again, young people in Anchorage have made a positive difference everyday. Here is one account of amazing Anchorage young people.
On Tuesday Jan. 27, the Dimond Lynx and West Eagles hockey teams faced off for their big game. These are two of the top hockey teams in the state, and the game was much anticipated by students, faculty and the general public. It was also Senior Night — a celebration of graduating seniors. That provided for great excitement and an atmosphere of fun and celebration. For some, perhaps, “Senior Night” might elicit an image of irresponsible young people taking chances and not thinking of others in their community. The truth is different.
The Dimond and West hockey teams decided to use the game as an opportunity to raise funds and donations for the Clare House. The Clare House homeless shelter is run by Catholic Social Services. It provides temporary, emergency 24-hour shelter for women with children and expectant mothers (over 18). Residents receive daily meals and referrals for child care, substance abuse/mental health, affordable permanent housing, employment and continuing educational opportunities. Case management services are an integral part of the program to help women in their transition from homelessness to independent living. Every night Clare House shelters more than 100 moms and kids. The fastest growing homeless segment in our nation is women with young children.
Providing help to the community while still pushing the puck, the Dimond and West hockey teams asked players and their fellow students to donate goods and funds to Clare House as part of their scheduled hockey game. The festivities included a ceremonial puck drop face off, a split the pot raffle and a bid on special hockey jerseys to benefit Clare House. The teams and the cheerleaders all participated — proudly showing their support for Clare House with special messages emblazoned on their jerseys and jackets. Dimond and West supporters filled the Ben Boeke Ice Arena with donations of diapers, rice, bedding, snacks, trash bags, pull-ups and laundry detergent.
Seeing these Anchorage youth rally and work to support those in need in their community reinforces for me my image of Alaskan youth. Young people here care about their community and work hard to improve the lives of their fellow citizens all the time. It may not always make headlines, but we see it and hear it loud and clear. We at Catholic Social Services want to express our deepest thanks to the young people at Dimond and West and to all of their families and teachers. We are so grateful for your support of the women and children at Clare House.
The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit cssalaska.org.