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 Springfield Thunderbirds

T-Birds' M&T Bank "Better Together" Community Initiatives Raise $128,000 During 23-24 Season

May 9, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Springfield Thunderbirds News Release


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds had an undeniable impact during the 2023-24 season through community outreach and charitable involvement in the Pioneer Valley. Through the organization's "Better Together" Community Partnership with M&T Bank, the Thunderbirds' players and mascot Boomer made an average of over a visit per day within the community this season, and the organization raised more than $128,000 for various local charities.

"As our business has grown over our eight-year history, we have committed to never straying away from our core principle of being a champion of our Western Massachusetts community," said Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa. "M&T Bank shares in this value, and their partnership has been critical in allowing us to make a wide-ranging impact on so many deserving benefactors in the Pioneer Valley. Every year, we are reminded of the generosity and philanthropy of countless people and organizations in the 413, and we are extremely proud to play our part in lifting up our community."

"M&T Bank strives to work with organizations that focus on having a significant impact on the community they serve," said Maureen Picknally, Senior Vice President & Retail Regional Manager for M&T Bank. "Not only do the Thunderbirds win on the ice, they win in the community. We're proud to collaborate with an organization like the Thunderbirds, whose significant community service has resulted in improving thousands of lives throughout the Springfield and Western Massachusetts communities."

The 2023-24 season further showcased the Thunderbirds' commitment to being present outside the walls of the MassMutual Center. T-Birds players and mascot Boomer combined to make an average of over an appearance per day, including dozens of stops at local youth hockey programs, celebrity serving and bartending nights for charity, and corporate sponsor visits.

The T-Birds turned the MassMutual Center into the ultimate field trip for thousands of school students on Nov. 13 for the annual School Day Game, which was made possible thanks to support from Fontaine Bros. Construction and MassMutual. In addition to an educational experience, the morning game also served as a first-ever T-Birds game for countless grade-schoolers in the region, creating a core memory at a young age.

For a second straight season, the T-Birds leaned into the heartfelt story of Martin Piche, the cousin of Will & Sam Bitten, who passed away from brain tumor cancer in 2021. The second year of Bitsy's Army involvement brought additional merchandise products and a lavender specialty jersey for November's annual Hockey Fights Cancer game. The evening was doubly special when Will & Sam contributed points in a 7-0 victory.

In addition to donations to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada through the jersey auction, the T-Birds also contributed proceeds to local cancer charities in Western Massachusetts, including Baystate Children's Hospital, Sister Caritas Cancer Center, CHD's Cancer House of Hope, and Survivor Journeys.

As the holiday season approached, the Thunderbirds continued one of their newer traditions when they collaborated with Rock 102's annual Mayflower Marathon, which collected more than $217,000 in food and monetary donations for Open Pantry, breaking the prior record by more than $40,000. To celebrate the record-setting Marathon on Nov. 22, the T-Birds welcomed Bax & Nagle from Rock 102 for "Mayflower Marathon Night" at the Thunderbirds game. The MassMutual Center once again served as a hub for donation collection throughout the month, in addition to the main drop-off point at MGM Springfield. By the end of Marathon week, the T-Birds Foundation had contributed over $15,000 in food and monetary donations toward the Marathon's record total.

In December, in partnership with Teddy Bear Pools & Spas, the Thunderbirds' annual Teddy Bear Toss showcased the community's generosity when more than 6,400 stuffed animals rained down on the ice for the annual game. The following week, T-Birds players brought teddy bears and holiday cheer to thousands of underprivileged youths in the region. Benefactors included the Ronald McDonald House, CHD, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Springfield, Martin Luther King Family Services Center, and the Boys & Girls Club Family Center.

As the New Year approached, the T-Birds partnered with Pet Supplies Plus and the Foundation for TJO Animals for another dog-friendly game at the MassMutual Center on Dec. 23, where fans who bought tickets for their four-legged friends contributed to bettering the lives of abandoned, sick, and injured animals.

The annual M&T Bank Hometown Heroes Night on Jan. 27 featured the return of Sticks & Stairs presented by HAAS Alert, where the Thunderdome was transformed into a stair-climb course of over 1,100 steps as fans tested their endurance while supporting the American Lung Association. Many first responders even chose to run or walk the course in full uniform, a traditional homage to the men and women who put themselves on the front line every day.

For a third straight season, the T-Birds tipped their cap to their military-inspired name with a red specialty jersey for the club's annual Military Appreciation Night presented by King Gray Coach Lines. Auction proceeds that evening went on to benefit a plethora of military-based charitable causes, including the Thunderbolt Council, the American Legion of Massachusetts, Disabled American Veterans, the Galaxy Council, the Veterans' Home in Holyoke, USO of Pioneer Valley, Friends of Springfield Veterans, and Wounded Warrior Project.

Inclusion was the theme of the day on Sunday, March 3, when the T-Birds and CHD collaborated for the annual Sensory-Friendly Sunday, a game-day experience that allowed fans with sensitivities to light and sound to enjoy a hockey game with consistent lighting and toned-down volume. Springfield College's Occupational Therapy students lent their helping hands in overseeing "cool-down" stations for those who needed a break from the game action.

The specialty jersey slate ended in grand style on March 9 during the 7th Annual Pink in the Rink, which benefitted the Rays of Hope Foundation through the T-Birds' partnership with Baystate Health. Through a combination of jersey auctions and in-game raffling, the team generated over $40,000 in contributions for the Rays of Hope in pursuit of a cure.

The T-Birds also kept a stronghold on their involvement with local schools and libraries through a pair of meaningful programs. Under a new name for the 2023-24 season, Boomer's Reading Club returned with visits across multiple Springfield City Library branches, including contributions of school supplies and gifts from the T-Birds Foundation. T-Birds Man of the Year Drew Callin spearheaded the program, appearing at each library visit in late winter and early spring.

Another mainstay community program since the team's formative years, the Thunderbirds' Stick to Reading Program, with support from MassMutual, encouraged literacy in Springfield area classrooms and saw record-breaking participation this season from 46 different schools in the region, including a strong presence in the Springfield Public School system.

While the season has ended, the Thunderbirds' front office staff and Boomer will remain active in the communities around Western Mass throughout the offseason months. For more information on upcoming events, stay tuned to the T-Birds on social media @ThunderbirdsAHL, or visit the Community tab on the team's official website, www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.


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