Yesterday, on a day typically reserved for pounding on keyboards, taking meetings and exchanging emails, the Ducks staff did something much cooler -- we made a school more beautiful.
Dozens of staffers, along with Ducks coaches, a broadcaster, a certain future Hall-of-Famer and several fans, were among the 150 volunteers to take to Mattie Lou Maxwell Elementary School in Anaheim as part of the Anaheim Ducks Power PLAY! campus makeover project.
It was Veteran’s Day, so the students had the day off, but the school’s teachers and staff also took part in the project, which involved the beautification of several aspects of the campus. Throughout the day, you could walk around the grounds (as I did) and constantly remark to yourself, “Wow, this is really cool.”
At one corner of the campus, a street hockey rink was being installed with the help of Ducks TV color analyst Brian Hayward. At another, raised garden beds and picnic tables were being put together -- which was the area I was assigned to. (I’ve never spent so much time with a power drill in my life.) On several of the buildings and handball courts, murals were being meticulously colored in. And all around the campus, trees were being planted, and among those getting his hands dirty while clad in the event's orange t-shirt was one Scott Niedermayer.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and his family lent a hand as well, with Boudreau walking around and joking with the volunteers, brushing some paint on his t-shirt and face because he joked that it made him look busier.
"It's pretty eye-opening to see how many people are out here working away and changing this school," Niedermayer told a local reporter. "I think when the kids get here tomorrow morning, they're going to be in for a pretty big surprise."
Indeed, all of this will be unveiled to the kids today in a special ceremony. The day will double as one of the Ducks' Reading is the Goal days in which staffers (including myself) read to kids in their classrooms, followed by street hockey and an assembly. Mattie Lou Maxwell was chosen for this project from among more than 300 area schools as one of the first schools in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program (www.ducksscore.com), which was developed in 2005 with the goal of making a positive impact with youth in local schools and hockey communities throughout Southern California.
The kids at Maxwell will hopefully feel that impact, one that was certainly made on all of us who got to be part of that project. To me, that was most evident at the end of the day, when all of the work was finished. A good part of the staff stood with each other in our orange t-shirts, laughing and sharing old stories for another hour or so.
We were surrounded by these beautiful murals, fresh planted trees and gardens and I kept thinking to myself: It isn't that we have to be here. It's just that we want to be.
Frankly, I can't wait to be back there again today when the kids see it all.
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