SAN MARCOS, Calif. - A Southern California ice hockey team comprised of active and former service members made a huge play Jan. 13 when they presented the Semper Fi Fund with a check for $1,400.
The team, Patriots Hockey, raised the money at the ECHL’s Ontario Reign game Dec. 1 in Ontario, Calif. After spending three periods and an overtime in the corridors of Citizens Business Bank Arena, home of the Reign, raising money for the fund by selling Patriots Hockey t-shirts and accepting donations, the team then took the ice to take on Ontario Fire Department’s hockey team.
The Patriots defeated Ontario Fire 5-2, raised $1,400 for Semper Fi Fund by the end of the night, and increased awareness on the team’s cause and the fund’s mission. In total, it was a hat trick for Patriots Hockey.
Patriots team captain Marvin Floer said raising money for Semper Fi Fund is a way of investing in the future of fellow Marines and sailors.
Furthermore, he said it’s more than just raising money; it’s raising awareness about the service members who need care far beyond “a prosthetic or x-rays.”
“It’s not very often we get to raise money for supporting service members as service members ourselves. But we all know about the responsibilities of being in the service,” said Floer, an active duty Navy corpsman serving with 1st Marine Division. “We’re really thankful that we had a great opportunity to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund on behalf of Patriots Hockey.”
After a Sunday morning practice, the team gathered at Player’s Sports Bar here to present the check to Laura Castellvi, senior manager of community outreach and events for Semper Fi Fund.
“It’s partnerships like this that we’re incredibly grateful for,” Castellvi said. “And, they share the same principles as [Semper Fi Fund].”
A nonprofit organization near and dear to the Marine Corps, Semper Fi Fund provides assistance to post-Sept. 11 Marines and sailors, as well as members of the Army, Air Force or Coast Guard who serve in support of Marine forces.
Specifically, the fund helps alleviate any financial stresses Marines and their families go through when recovering from wounds, injuries and illnesses sustained during their service. From flying a Marine’s family to his bedside at a medical center, to supporting a sailor’s future by assisting him in transitioning out of active duty service, Semper Fi Fund’s mission is to care for those service members who need the assistance.
Since their debut in 2004, the fund has issued more than 50,000 grants totaling more than $69 million to more than 8,600 service members and their families, according to Semper Fi Fund’s website.
Jeremy Pilachowski, one of Patriots Hockey’s assistant captains, said the team shares the same dedication and passion to help their wounded warriors. He said one of the most important ways of supporting is “keeping the awareness level up.”
“There are plenty of individuals coming back hurt,” said Pilachowski, an active duty Marine infantry officer serving with 1st Marine Division. “And, if they’re already back, they may never fully recover and will need some help – whether it’s monetarily or even psychologically; seeing us standing behind them saying ‘we’re here to do whatever we can.’”
The concept of Patriots Hockey began in March 2011 when Floer and friend Jeremy Lemons, a Marine combat instructor at the School of Infantry – West in Camp Pendleton, Calif., came up with the idea to create a team that through the support of the players can raise funds and awareness to wounded warriors. From the two came a team of Marines and sailors from the Camp Pendleton area by October 2011. The majority of the team continues to balance their active duty careers with their devotion to serving on and off the ice as a Patriots Hockey team member.
Pilachowski, a native of Chicago, said the team continues to build off the momentum gained already during their young existence in the Southern California ice hockey community. Floer said in order for the team to be successful, he needs “more than just good hockey players.”
“I need real commitment,” Floer said. “Off the ice is where we make the big impact. And our players are behind us 100 percent on it. We want guys who are committed to our cause, and committed to our mission. And if they’re a great player, that’s even better. But more times than not, a Marine is always a great player. It’s a very weird combination.”
The team has many ideas for raising money in the future to include hosting a hockey tournament involving teams from local government and municipal agencies. With the help of other patriotic teams, the Patriots can give NHL fans an extra dose of ice hockey, which was missed during the first half of the season due to the lock-out. Most importantly, they’ll continue to raise awareness for their fellow military brothers and sisters who can use the support.
“Putting our message out is the biggest thing,” Floer said. “Even if I don’t get a cent donated, as long as that message is out.”