Last Sunday, the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation partnered with Jam Kancer in the Kan for the first Henrik Lundqvist Kids Jam. The event was both a recognition of the accomplishments of the foundation’s Young Ambassadors and a final fundraiser for its 2018-19 class.
Rangers fans and Young Ambassadors were in attendance as both spectators and competitors for the KanJam tournament. There was a lot of laughter and plenty of smiles throughout the day, but things got intense when it was time for the final. Fittingly enough, one of the kids who has worked with the foundation won the inaugural Kids Jam Cup.
By now, you’re probably wondering what a Young Ambassador is. Each year, the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation welcomes a new class of young philanthropists that have to meet certain requirements. To be a young ambassador you have to be between the ages of 12-18, live in the Tri-State area, complete at least 15 hours of community service, and complete one individual project that aligns with HLF’s mission.
Carly Peterson, one of the HLF’s ambassadors, raised $3,486 over the summer to build a home for a family in Guatemala. She got involved with the foundation after participating in Kevin Shattenkirk’s Jam Kancer in the Kan events, where she was a star fundraiser.
For the HLF Kids Jam, she hosted a pizza sale to raise over $300. She also waited outside of stores in her hometown with a tin can to help raise money for pediatric cancer because, as she puts it, every little bit helps.
“I got involved because I have friends and family who have had cancer,” Carly told Blueshirt Banter. “I think giving back and helping out your community is so important, especially with how crazy today’s world can be. Anything you can do, any random act of kindness goes a long way. That’s what drives me. I want to make a difference.”
Kids like Carly, who are already dedicated to making a difference, are able to make bigger waves as Young Ambassadors. They interact with other young people who are passionate about giving back and attend events that the HLF hosts in New York City. Many of them, like Carly, also gain valuable work experience for their future careers by going above and beyond to help plan and then execute events like the Henrik Lundqvist Kids Jam.
“When we started the program, we talked about having kids do things like this can really inspire people more than having adults leading my example,” Lundqvist shared. “When they get their friends and siblings engaged — especially with the way the world is today — they can have a huge impact. Kids can really inspire other kids. That’s really why we started the Young Ambassadors program.”
It was a fun day for Lundqvist, who showed up in a red t-shirt made for the event. He made time for everyone, including excited fans who came back for second and third autographs and selfies. After the tournament wrapped up and the Kids Jam Cup was lifted, the veteran goaltender reflected on the impact that his foundation has had on the lives of kids like Carly.
“It’s hard for us to see up-close how it affects them as people, because we have different kids every year — but we do get a lot of feedback from the parents,” Lundqvist smiled. “We hear how they grow as people and how they develop a deep understanding of what it means to give back. I really enjoy that, those talks with the parents. I love to hear stories about how much these kids grow in their year with the program and to hear how much they value doing this kind of work.”
One can’t help but be humbled by what the HLF has been able to achieve not only in the Tri-State area, but also in Sweden and the Dominican Republic. Decisions about where to direct the foundation’s energy and resources are not made lightly and Lundqvist has made it a goal to help out wherever he can and contribute to projects he’s passionate about.
“Early on when we were starting the foundation, we looked at different organizations that we really liked,” Lundqvist shared with Blueshirt Banter. “We really like the work that Presbyterian [Children’s Hospital] does and the Ronald McDonald House is an organization that has been very close to me for years. I was 17 or 18 the first time I went to one of their houses in Sweden.
“When we find an organization that we want to help, we stay true to them and do what we can to help,” he continued. “There are different projects every year. With Ronald McDonald, for example, we’re paying for new homes that they’re building in Göteborg (Gothenburg) and other areas in Sweden. We also have projects with Presbyterian as well, so it’s not like we’re putting everything into one basket.”
It’s worth noting that Sunday’s event took place at VERSA, a rooftop bar that’s just a stone’s throw from Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist, now 37, earned his first career NHL win at MSG on Oct. 13, 2005. In the 14 years since that first victory, Lundqvist has become one of the most respected athletes in the world for what he does on the ice and the way he conducts himself off of it.
Needless to say, he will be an invaluable presence in a Rangers locker room that could have half a dozen players who are 21 or younger. When asked whether or not he thought it was important for him to be an example for his young teammates with philanthropy, the man the City calls its King paused to search for the right words.
“I think it’s important to at least reflect, as a person, on where you are when you come here,” he shared. “You get to play a game for a living and you get to play at Madison Square Garden. We’re all very blessed and very lucky to be able to do this.
“The Rangers give us every tool we need to succeed when it comes to training and preparing for games,” Lundqvist continued. “It’s a good life. There’s a lot of pressure, so you need to focus a lot on your game and that takes a lot of energy and effort, but it’s good to take a step back when you can and realize where you are. When you do that, I think you realize the good you can do with the position you’re in.”
The fundraising goal for the tournament was $30,000 — to be distributed to the Ronald McDonald Barnfond Children’s Fund, the NY Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and the Garden of Dreams Foundation. According to the foundation’s Crowdrise page, that goal was eclipsed.