Sports organizations, state, SNHU team up in unique effort

For the first time, all of New Hampshire’s professional sports organizations have joined together to support a charitable endeavor that also involves both the state Business Resource Center and Southern New Hampshire University.

Called “Team NH,” the effort unites the Manchester Monarchs, Manchester Wolves, Manchester Freedom, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, New Hampshire Phantoms, Nashua Pride, New England Dragway and the New Hampshire International Speedway with the Business Resource Center and SNHU in working with the clients of the Manchester-based Moore Center, an agency that provides comprehensive services to clients with developmental disabilities.

With the theme, “Changing Communities One Athlete at a Time,” Team NH is aimed at fostering friendships between SNHU student athletes and Moore Center clients. As part of the program, the student athletes and clients will attend local sporting events and state workers will take part by buying discounted tickets to selected sports events, with one dollar from each sale going to a fund that defrays costs of the program, including transportation.

In announcing the initiative, Gov. John Lynch thanked the sports organizations “for continuing to demonstrate their commitment to our state with this new mentorship program. I am pleased the local sports community has worked together with state government, the education community and one of the state’s dedicated social service agencies to help improve the quality of life of our citizens.”

Each team and track will host a special “Celebration of Sports NH Night” to benefit Team NH. The Monarchs hosted the first celebration during their Feb. 24 game against the Worcester Sharks at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Next up will be the Arena Football League’s Wolves, with a celebration night on Saturday, April 28, when the team takes on the Mahoning Valley Thunder at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Other “Celebration of Sports NH Nights” include the New Hampshire Phantoms soccer team on Saturday, May 26; Manchester Freedom women’s football on Saturday, June 2; New England Dragway on Saturday, June 9; the New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball team on Wednesday, June 13; and the Nashua Pride baseball team on Saturday, August 18. The date for the New Hampshire International Speedway celebration has yet to be announced.

Creation of a coalition

According to Steve Boucher of the Business Resource Center, the sports organizations “are an important economic driver of the state.”

For example, he said, according to research by Dr. Douglas Blais, chair of the Sport Management Department at SNHU’s School of Business, the Verizon Wireless Arena alone contributed nearly $44 million in direct, indirect and induced spending in 2004. “But beyond that, these organizations contribute to the quality of life here. We were originally thinking about how we could involve state employees, but the idea snowballed and it has gone far beyond that,” Boucher said.

“The buzz that we heard about the inaugural event with the Monarchs was terrific — way beyond expectation,” he added.

The Monarchs donated game tickets for the students and Moore Center participants and provided them with the opportunity to meet some of the players.

Monarchs President Jeff Eisenberg, whose team helped spearhead the Team NH effort, gave Boucher credit as being instrumental in the creation of the concept.

“We’re always looking for ways we can connect with our fans and friends, and give back to the community,” he said. “We brainstormed with Steve about the ways we could connect with state employees and the idea took shape. The initiative gathered momentum and expanded to include all six teams and two major tracks.”

Angelo Mazzella, general manager of the Wolves, credited Stephanie Bike, the team’s director of corporate operations, with bringing the concept to the team after discussing the idea with Boucher.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “We were on board before we knew who else would be participating, and we’re glad to see all the prominent sports in the state are represented.”

As for SNHU, the organizers said the university was the natural choice to be the education partner, thanks to its 42-credit sports management program.

Speaking at the Jan. 22 press conference to announce the effort, SNHU President Paul Leblanc said, “Teamwork is a concept which is consistently emphasized to all of our athletes, and they welcome the chance to develop new relationships and build strong bonds with their new friends from the Moore Center.”

Moore Center President and CEO Paul Boynton sees the initiative as a great example of putting Moore Center’s mission of “creating opportunities for a good life” into action.

“Every once in a while, there’s a win-win-win situation, and this is one,” he said. “It will broaden everyone’s world.”

Boynton said he hopes the program will continue far beyond one season.

“I think initially you’ll see teenagers and young adults from the Moore Center participate,” he said. “I hope this becomes an ongoing program that could include caregivers and possibly the elderly, who often don’t have the means to get out to sports events, even though they’ve been lifelong fans. Already, we’ve seen others step up to contribute to the program, like Chuck Rolecek of C.R. Sparks, who has donated to the initiative. We’d welcome support from other businesses and individuals as well.”

This article was provided by the New Hampshire Business Resource Center. For more information on Team NH, contact Steve Boucher at 271-7581.

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