You may have seen one of the posts we’ve written about the effort to save the hockey dek in New Hanover Township, way up in Montco. If you haven’t, the short version of a long story is that my hometown was considering replacing a dilapidated rink with pickleball courts, but the 11-year-old girls still using the dek organized with their families and the community and the township agreed to find a solution to restore and renovate the rink instead.

After seven months and a ton of hard work behind the scenes, we are happy to report that in addition to pickleball being thwarted, the Philadelphia Flyers are stepping in with a monster donation. Incredible!

Here’s a portion of the press release:

Flyers Charities announced a $200,000 donation in support of local 11-year-olds Natalie Van Druff and Lilly Walter’s effort to save their local ball hockey rink. As a result of the funding, Van Druff and Walter’s proposal to save their beloved rink was officially approved by New Hanover Township’s Board of Supervisors in partnership with The Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation last month. The revitalization of the rink will be underway before the end of the month with Flyers Charities and New Hanover Township planning to host a grand opening event at the Township’s Community Park (2798 Gail Drive in Gilbertsville, PA) on Wednesday, August 7.    

“When we learned of Lilly and Natalie’s remarkable initiative to preserve their community’s beloved ball hockey rink, it was an unequivocal decision to rally behind them,” said Blair Listino, President of Flyers Charities. “One of our main pillars is growing the game of hockey and their determination to make a difference exemplifies that. With this donation, we are thrilled to help them create a space where their passion for the sport can thrive and their neighbors are inspired to embrace hockey.”   

Earlier this month, Lilly and Natalie were treated to a special visit to Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, NJ where Flyers forward Garnet Hathaway and Gritty surprised the girls with news of Flyers Charities’ donation to support their ongoing mission. Hathaway and Gritty presented the girls with the $200,000 check before gifting them with Flyers merchandise and posing for photos.    

Originally an unsafe asphalt surface surrounded by chain link fence, Flyers Charities’ donation will assist the township with refurbishing the rink to create a safe and functional ball hockey rink for young athletes like Van Druff and Walter to continue to meet up with friends and hone their hockey skills. The donation will cover installing new flooring and boards, building benches and penalty boxes, and providing new hockey nets.    

The thought of some kind of grand opening or ribbon cutting in Gilbertsville is hilarious to me. This will be the biggest thing to happen in New Hanover Township since we got our first and only Wawa.

The turning point in this story was a few months ago. The Flyers got wind of what the girls were trying to do and invited them and their families to the Flyers Charities Carnival back in March. Cindy Stutman, Senior VP of Community Relations and Executive Director, went on the Snow the Goalie live show and told Ant, Russ, and Bundy that the organization was going to lend a hand in some way to help out, though there wasn’t any kind of official agreement at that point. It simmered for about six weeks until a plan came together, New Hanover officially gave approval in early May, and from there it just came down to crossing some Ts and dotting some Is.

It’s sick to have the Flyers involved with this, and in order to understand the significance of the job, you have to see some photos to realize what a total jank fest the rink turned into. It had huge cracks running through it and the ball kept getting stuck under the fence. It was barely playable. To the credit of the township, which was 100% supportive of the girls’ effort, they handled some preliminary safety items on their own. That included repairing the cracks, fixing the dasher boards, and adjusting the fence so it no longer swung into the rink:

These first items amounted to an aggressive retool, but now we’re in full rebuilding mode. It’s a new era of orange in the hinterlands of upper Montco.

On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, we are immensely proud of these girls and deeply appreciate the partnership of Flyers Charities, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation in bringing this vision to life,” said Jamie L. Gwynn, New Hanover Township Manager. “We hope this moment serves as a powerful reminder to our youth that they are never too young to make a positive difference in their community.”

Amen, brother.

RE: Flyers Charities, they’ve done some phenomenal community work over the years. It’s noted in the release that since relaunching in 2021, Flyers Charities “has donated $700,000 towards growing the game of hockey by helping to revitalize local rinks throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region.” You may remember the recent attention paid to Kensington, where a $400,000 combo effort with Snider Hockey made possible the building of an outdoor rink. They also touched up the playground, built a multi-purpose sports wall, brought Cooooooots out to the grand opening and turned it into a big celebration:

Looks great. I’m excited for the girls and the great township of New Hanover. I watched them go up and speak in front of the board and they were better on the microphone than Jalen Hurts when asked about Nick Sirianni…

Anyway, it’s a great lesson in initiative and community organization. This got done because a couple of 11 year olds got the ball rolling. We will unfurl the red carpet for the Flyers in Gilbertsville. Maybe we can get Anthony and Torts to cut the ribbon together.