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Philanthropy has Become a Key Part of the New Trier Hockey Club

By USA Hockey, 03/23/24, 4:45PM MDT


The Illinois-based club took some time away from giving back to the community to play in the Chipotle-USA Hockey High School National Championships.

The New Trier Hockey Club had a commitment to philanthropy long before the need for such projects hit much too close to home.

New Trier is currently focused on playing in the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Prep High School National Championships in West Chester, Pennsylvania. However, the program developed a bigger meaning for its players off the ice a couple of years ago.

In the summer of 2022, the Winnetka, Illinois-based high school hockey program made plans to host a sled hockey game with the Chicago Blackhawks Sled Hockey team that November; the game would benefit the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Adaptive Sports Program. But the event would soon take on another meaning for New Trier. 

As the 2022-23 school year was getting started, Clay Scherb, a senior at the high school, suffered a spinal cord injury. Scherb was friends of many of the hockey team members and the older brother of Cole Scherb, the goalie on New Trier’s junior varsity team at the time.

New Trier’s players rallied around the cause together.

“One of the things I’ve been trying to teach these young men is what community is and what supporting one another is,” said Adam Cheris, who is in his sixth year of coaching at New Trier. “By having the teams support one another, one of the things we talked about was something bigger picture like this injury and that how we respond to it as individuals to support friends in need and the community in need is paramount."

“The bigger thing they took away from it is to realize that this is not just something we’re doing as a team, but this is somebody within our community and we’re all going to do this to reach out and do whatever we can to make this thing ever better. They took this thing and ran with it.”

New Trier Hockey had already established a commitment to community service before the sled game, but on a smaller scale.

“We were looking for a way to get the kids involved and motivated,” said Roxy Freel, who has spent three years as New Trier Hockey Club’s philanthropy chair. “In the past they’ve done fundraisers where we stood outside the grocery store and asked for money for different causes. I wanted to do something more active where the kids were involved.”

Cheris was searching for ways to have the program’s five teams work together. Freel said the services provided by the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, and the fact that it included the Blackhawks Sled Hockey Team, made it a good fit.

After Clay Scherb began a long in-patient rehabilitation, an adjustment was made to turn the event into a dual fundraiser, splitting proceeds between the lab and supporting Scherb’s medical costs.

More than 100 New Trier players from the school’s various teams banded together for the sled hockey game, which took place on Nov. 13, 2022. They sold raffle tickets, T-shirts, programs, coordinated a “Shoot the Puck” contest and created an event that drew more than 500 spectators and raised $33,000.

Three players from each of the five New Trier teams played sled hockey, taking on a team that included Paralympians. Then they split up to play alongside the sled hockey players.

“It was a great experience,” Freel said. “Our guys got to see how it feels to play sled hockey; how to do something when you have to adapt to a new set of circumstances, which I thought was very interesting for them as well.”

The New Trier teams did not stop there.

Keeping the theme of togetherness, Cheris created a Friday Night Lights series for the 2023-24 season. Cheris arranged the schedule so that on the Fridays, one of the New Trier teams would have a home league game and the other four would be off and in attendance to support them. Now, even the JV team got to feel what it’s like to play in front of 500 fans.

Raffle tickets in conjunction with the games helped continue raising funds to support the Scherb family and Clay’s rehabilitation.

“It’s all about building this culture,” Cheris said, “a brotherhood where we’re all united.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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