Norm Flynn, the founder and executive Director of the H.E.R.O.S has brought the program out of North America for the first time to launch a hockey initative for at-risk youth in Ireland

The Vancouver based H.E.R.O.S. (Hockey Reaching Out Society) along with Co-operation Ireland and the Belfast Giants hockey team jointly announced the launch of the Giant H.E.R.O.S.

Flynn, States ‘ The H.E.R.O.S. program uses hockey as a catalyst to encourage positive behavior, promote confidence,teamwork, and responsibility and most importantly build self-esteem for at-risk youth from low-income neighborhoods. Participating schools select students on basis of need to participate in a fun-filled, safe environment where each child is considered a hero.

Tony Kennedy, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland says, ‘Through our CORE programme we are delighted to support and facilitate this unique and challenging event. Ice that hockey is a relatively new sport here and is enjoyed by all communities. This project is therefore an ideal way to bring young people together and give them the opportunity to learn new skills whilst also getting to know their peers from the other community and the other side of the border.’

Todd Kelman, General Manager of the Belfast Giants adds, ‘The H.E.R.O.S. program is massive across Canada and this is the first time they have taken it outside of North America. I am very proud to be involved and hopefully we can give these kids a week to remember. This is the best project the Giants have been involved in since I’ve been GM or a player.

Choosing thirty young people from four youth clubs in East Belfast, Short Strand and Finglas in Dublin will be taking to the ice at Dundonald International Ice Bowl on Monday 18th August when they take part in the eagerly awaited Giants Herso Core Project 2008.’ Concluded Kelman.

The Heros project (Hockey, Education, Reaching Out and Society) will run throughout the week and will involve a unique ice hockey camp with training from some of the best in the ice hockey business – the Belfast Giants and ex-professional Canadian ice hockey players, all of whom will be giving their time voluntarily. The project was launched by the Mayor of Castlereagh, Cllr Ann-Marie Beattie, Tony Kennedy, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland and Todd Kelman, General Manager of the Belfast Giants alongside some of the young people involved in the project from Walkways Youth Club in East Belfast and Doyle Youth Club in Short Strand. The Heros project is based on a Canadian model and uses ice hockey as a medium to teach young people about discipline, listening, teamwork and having fun. They will also have the opportunity to participate in music, environmental and cultural events.

The Heros Programme gives kids from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to learn a new sport, interact with kids in a team environment and most importantly learn about self respect and self worth.” Tony Kennedy, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland added.

The H.E.R.O.S. program is unique, in that it provides children with free equipment use and on-ice instruction to play a relatively expensive sport that would be essentially unaffordable otherwise. Flynn says, ‘In the process of participating and having fun they also learn a lot of terrific skills. It’s amazing how after only one year they are walking taller, are more goal oriented and have hope for the future because they start to appreciate the value of staying in school and progressing on to post secondary education.’

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