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Brown Bears Hockey Club Stage Online Fundraiser for Homeless in Alaska Saturday

By John Tranchina, 05/08/20, 11:00AM MDT


Group comprised of female hockey players of color leading worthy cause

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the premature cancellation of the 2019-20 hockey season at most levels of play, many organizations have proactively gotten involved to help out local communities.

One such organization is the Brown Bears Hockey Club, a national network of female hockey players of color, that usually get together every summer for a large hockey tournament. This year, however, the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. Despite the cancellation, the Brown Bears aimed to make a positive impact on the hockey community by helping raise money for the homeless community in Anchorage, Alaska.

While the Brown Bears have already achieved their goal of raising $1,000, the main thrust of the fundraiser occurs online this Saturday, when the Brown Bears host an afternoon of activities and important discussions via Zoom videoconferencing service, to which anyone can buy “tickets” to attend for just $7.14 each, with $5.20 going directly to the Anchorage NAACP to help the homeless.

“It will have a really good impact, honestly,” said Besse Odom, the NAACP’s vice president and environmental and climate justice committee chairperson. “I think that any money that is attributed to the organizations that are doing the work around homelessness is greatly appreciated. The money will be used for help with housing … but also to continue to provide PPE equipment for those who are currently houseless, like masks and care bags and things like that. We’re really trying to approach this from a lot of different angles, but those are the two ways in which we intend to use the funds, as well as continuing to educate the community and offer workshops and training and things like that.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the Brown Bears and I hope that we can continue this relationship and to do the good work in our community.”

The homeless population in Anchorage has been temporarily housed during the pandemic at two local ice rinks, the Sullivan Ice Arena and the Ben Boeke Ice Arena, where they can maintain CDC guidelines of social distancing, instead of inside a more confined homeless shelter.

The Brown Bears, a group of over 150 players spread across the United States, have a number of members working on the frontlines of the pandemic but still wanted to do something more to help.

“Because we can’t gather on the ice, we decided to gather on Zoom, as many people are doing, and we also wanted to address the health disparities that are currently now in the pandemic for black and brown communities,” said Jasmine Bazinet-Phillips, a co-founder of the Brown Bears based in Vermont and a driving force behind the Zoom event. “We reached out to the NAACP and we really just asked Besse Odom, ‘How can we help?’ And she felt that the population that really needed the most help right now, and was maybe even being forgotten about, was the homeless population that has been moved into the ice rinks. She’s partnered with two non-profits in Alaska to make sure that our funds go directly to that population.”

Even in spring, Alaska can be a cold and dangerous place to be homeless, making housing a major health issue. And because the Anchorage homeless population disproportionately consists of indigenous people and people of color, COVID-19 has been hitting that demographic particularly hard and the need for help in that community is urgent.

The Zoom call on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. Eastern time, will have a variety of people sharing their unique perspectives and expertise on a number of relevant issues affecting both the hockey world and the homeless community during the COVID-19 outbreak. It will begin with an introduction to the day’s festivities by the Brown Bears board of directors. Then, starting at about 11:30 a.m., there will be a session of ‘coffee and yoga’ with Bria Hamlet.

“She is an African-American yoga teacher in San Diego, California, and she’s very interested in promoting wellness in the African-American community through her practice of yoga,” Bazinet-Phillips said. “I thought she would be a great person to have on our fundraiser and get everyone staying active and thinking about mindfulness during these unprecedented times.”

After that, Odom will join the call, along with Jacqui Patterson, who is the director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice program, to detail the current situation with Anchorage’s homeless and how the fundraiser will help conditions. Also participating will be Justina Beagnyam, representing The Poor People’s Campaign and Camp Here: Occupy to Overcome Homelessness organizations.

That discussion will then shift back to hockey with a stickhandling exhibition with former CWHL and NWHL player Blake Bolden, who was the first African-American to play in the NWHL with Boston in 2015.

A panel featuring a number of Brown Bears players who are also serving as frontline workers during the pandemic will then discuss current challenges they are facing. Speakers include Bazinet-Phillips herself, who works as an emergency medicine clinical research coordinator and a newborn hearing screening technician at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“We have a lot of great women who are super busy right now helping out and we’d really like to hear their stories,” Bazinet-Phillips said. “That will get started at 1:40 p.m.”

Following the frontlines panel, there will be a TikTok dance with a professional dancer, Akilah Brooks from Dallas, Texas, for about 40 minutes.

Starting at around 3 p.m., there will be another discussion, this time with Stephanie Jackson, director of diversity and inclusion for USA Hockey, along with Natalie Wolgemuth, a board member of the Scotty Gomez Foundation and Scott’s sister, that helps underprivileged youth in Alaska play hockey at greatly-reduced cost.

“And then we’re just going to end with a happy hour, hoping to just chat with people and just connect,” said Bazinet-Phillips. “We’re excited about the whole project, and it should last from 11 to about 5 p.m., all Eastern Standard Time.”

It will be a fun and informative day of talking about hockey and the current challenges of dealing with COVID-19, all in an effort to raise money to help benefit the homeless in Anchorage.

To join the Zoom call, or for more detailed information about the scheduled itinerary, as well as more info on the featured speakers, click here. There are 193 total “tickets” available and slots are filling up fast. Those who aren’t able to get in can still donate until Sunday night at midnight.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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