The excitement in the air was palpable. It was early in the morning on Saturday, February 18th and we expected our kids to still be struggling to keep their sleepiness at bay. It turns out that if you give them something as unique as a floor hockey camp with a famous former Edmonton Oiler sleep doesn’t really matter so much.

That day, 60 kids between the ages of 9 and 13 from across our after school clubs, including a few of from our inner city schools, got to participate in a ProCamp hosted by Garth Brooks and Ryan Smyth. In every city he visits during his world tour, Garth is taking time to hang out with children as part of his Teammates for Kids Foundation. The foundation helps provide scholarships for underprivileged children therefore allowing them to go to ProCamps Sports Camps, hosted by professional athletes from that city.

Our staff had told the kids ahead of time that Ryan Smyth was going to be there, playing and providing tips. They were so excited when he walked in and everyone truly tried their best.

“Today is about the kids,” Smyth said to Global News Edmonton. “It’s great. It’s about an opportunity… It’s bringing everyone together… There’s no greater feeling than being together as a team.”

A young boy named Jed shared that “it was awesome, awesome and awesome!  When we were stick handling my coach said I was the best one so far on Team 4 and in the game I  scored a hat trick.  I put the ball between someone’s legs and backhanded it.  It is so far the sickest goal I have ever had.”

It was also a perfect opportunity for kids to meet others their age from across the city. This was especially unique for the kids who attend our new inner city school programs as this was their first time getting to participate in a Club-wide event.

Another little boy, Arek, shared that “my favourite part of the day was getting to know my teammates. If I got to know these kids better we could be really good friends and see each other on field trips. I learned about love, and positive attitude.”

Though many of the kids didn’t necessarily know Garth Brooks the same way their parents did, when Garth walked up to the microphone they cheered the way his fans did when he walked on stage at Rogers Place that night. They cheered because here was this incredibly famous individual taking his time and investing his resources so they could have this amazing opportunity.

“It’s everything to me,” Garth told Global News Edmonton. “It was junior high, it was high school. I was lucky enough to wear a college uniform. [It’s a] sense of family… We treat the whole tour like it’s a team. We’re a family and that’s what this is. It’s about being part of something that’s bigger than you could ever be by yourself… That’s what a teammate is for me.”

The entire camp was structured not just to focus on hockey skills but also the characteristics of being a good teammate: attitude, respect, courage, character, discipline, and love.

“Love is the most important thing we can do down here. You can deal with human beings at this age,” Garth explained to Global, holding his hand waist-high, “introduce love into their life – or you can deal with human beings at this age (gestures taller than him) who haven’t had love introduced into their life. You’ll see a big difference… I think it’s the most important thing.”

When we followed up with a handful of the kids who were there they were quick to tell us the different new words they learned and why they were so important. They shone with pride and were excited to be asked to share their experience.

We say time and time again how important experiences are to kids. Every new experience opens their eyes and broadens their horizon. Regardless of whether they go onto become the next generation of Oilers players, we know that they’ll cherish the memory of this floor hockey day and take the lessons about being a good teammate with them into their teenage and adult years.

Garth Brooks ended by saying, “Other than being a dad, this is the most important work I’ve ever gotten to do in my life.”

Well said, Garth. Well said.

Thank you to Garth Brooks, Ryan Smyth, Teammates for Kids, ProCamps Sport Camps, the Oilers Community Foundation, and Ecole Notre Dame Elementary School for making this day possible for our kids.

To learn about how you can participate in the important work of mentoring children click here to learn about volunteer or click here to donate.

Garth Brooks and Ryan Smyth’s quotes originally appeared in this article from Global.

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