For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, John Patterson — a Green Tree Approved Private School sixth grader — knew what it felt like to be part of a Philadelphia professional-sports team.
With Stanley Cup winner Bob “The Hound” Kelly at his side, the 12-year-old donned a Flyers player’s uniform, mugging for his classmates while trying to move around beneath pounds and pounds of hockey gear.
His reaction didn’t exactly surprise anyone in the room.
“John is very outspoken and loves to show off for his fellow students,” said Lisa Wood, Green Tree’s director of education. “He’s really benefited from being a part of the program here. It’s especially exciting for the kids to have an opportunity to get up in front of everyone and dress up.”
Where they were
That scene was part of a Philadelphia Flyers School Assembly at the Green Tree’s year-old 60,000 square-foot campus on East Washington Lane.
The private school provides academic, social skills, life skills and vocational education to children ages 5 to 21 that have Autism or other significant learning, social and emotional challenges.
Some students from Green Tree’s Autism Support Program and Lower School participated in the assembly which saw Kelly and Flyers Fan Development Staff members speaking about teamwork.
Patterson suited up as part of a demonstration showing how athletes must take appropriate precautions in order to pursue their sport of choice.
The idea to invite the Flyers to school was Green Tree transition coordinator Sarah Geary, who played lacrosse at Old Dominion University.
“It seemed like a good incentive for the kids to model good behavior,” she explained.
Kelly was a Flyers left winger for 10 years during the “Broad Street Bullies” era that brought two Stanley Cup parades down Broad Street.
As the team’s “Ambassador for Hockey,” he’s been involved in an evolving “School Assembly Program” that has visited 95 schools and reached more than 30,000 students since early last year.
“We focus on kids in grades 1 through 6, talking to them about teamwork, motivation, attitude and safety,” Kelly explained. “It’s important to reach out to students and educate them about sportsmanship.
“We hope this is a way we can encourage them to keep a positive attitude, work hard, play well and be the best that they can be.”
In addition to the safety demonstration and Kelly’s words about sportsmanship, Tuesday’s assembly featured a video program illustrating the values of teamwork, motivation, attitude and education through a combination of popular-film clips and brief recorded statements from current Flyers.
The audience was invited to participate in a series of games with Kelly and Jason Tempesta, the team’s senior manager for community relations. The crowd favorite was the Flyers Bobble Head Shuffle, in which students and teachers had to pick which Flyers logo was hiding a bobblehead toy.
Kelly closed his portion of the program with a quote from Michael Jordan, memorably illustrating the morning’s lessons.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games; 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life,” the quote read. “And that is why I succeed.”