Jenelyn Russo

By Jenelyn Russo

Jenelyn Russo

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Anaheim Ducks-Reading is the Goal Day

There may not be any ice on the Honda Center floor right now, but the Anaheim Ducks organization has been busy this fall continuing their efforts to impact local youth through education and the sport of hockey.

Their latest stop was Fairmont Elementary in Yorba Linda, the site of this year’s Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal Day. Chosen from over 200 schools and 27,000 students across Southern California who participate in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, the kids at Fairmont were rewarded for their efforts and commitment to Reading is the Goal with a fun day that celebrated hockey and the importance of literacy.

Over 20 Ducks staff members arrived at the school in the morning to read to the kids in each kindergarten through 6th grade classroom. The Ducks Power Players accompanied Wild Wing throughout the campus, introducing him to many kids who may not have been familiar with Orange County’s hockey team or their winged mascot.

Lunchtime recess featured two street hockey rinks out on the playground, where kids played some five-on-five street hockey led by the Ducks Street Team. And the day culminated with an assembly attended by 4th, 5th and 6th graders, with special guests Ducks radio play-by-play announcer Steve Carroll, Ducks television color analyst Brian Hayward, and former Mighty Duck, J.F. Jomphe.

A part of the Ducks’ award-winning S.C.O.R.E. program (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education), Reading is the Goal is an in-class reading initiative developed for 4th graders that rewards them for time spent reading over a 30-day period. And according to Fairmont teacher, Pat Shea, who is responsible for incorporating the program at the school, the results have been tremendous.

“This program really does get kids excited about reading,” said Shea. “I’ve seen kids who did not enjoying reading at all develop a true love for books as a result of participating in this program. As educators, we couldn’t be more grateful to the Ducks for what they do.”

During the assembly, Steve Carroll talked about how reading is an important and necessary skill, no matter which career path you take, and how critical it has been in his broadcasting career.

Brian Hayward read to the kids and spoke eloquently about how his college education at Cornell University always took priority, even over playing hockey. For Hayward, his NHL career was a bonus to the business degree he earned, and now, as a retired player, he’s enjoying careers as a broadcaster and a business owner, in large part he feels to his commitment to literacy.

J.F. Jomphe spoke to the kids about growing up in Montreal and how the hard work modeled to him by his father inspired him in his pursuit of education and hockey. The Ducks former center, who is also a father, talked about how he now reads to his own five-year-old and the importance of instilling a love for reading in kids at an early age.

Both Hayward and Jomphe fielded questions from several kids, and the assembly ended with the Ducks organization presenting the school and principal Julie Lucas with a full set of street hockey equipment, an autographed team jersey and a donation of books for the school’s library.

“It’s so important for these kids to see the value of reading,” said Lucas. “The presentations today showed the kids that even for athletes, being a student comes first.”

Carol Campagna, mom to a kindergartner, a second grader and a fifth grader at Fairmont, said that the event and the entire program have been a “breathe of fresh air” for the students.

“The kids have been so excited about this day,” said Campagna. “It’s fantastic to see the program connect reading and learning with sports.”

As I watched student after student, many of who were wearing Ducks t-shirts, thank their teachers and principal for a day they will never forget, it was hard not to see how programs like these are making a real and tangible impact in our community. As a result of Reading is the Goal, proficiency and test scores are up among those students who participate. This and all of the other S.C.O.R.E. programs are offered free to Southern California schools thanks to the Anaheim Ducks Foundation.

As both a fan of hockey and a mom to two elementary age daughters, I’m grateful to the Ducks for their efforts and commitment to education and growing the sport of hockey among the youth in our community.

At a time when it’s admittedly a bit tough to be a hockey fan, events like these and the smiles on the kids faces help keep it all in perspective.

For more on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, visit

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