Most ECHL hockey players have earned degrees in impressive fields from outstanding universities and have successfully started professional careers, but how many can say they started a charitable foundation and that it's successfully continuing without them?
Three years ago when Komets goaltender Cody Reichard was heading into his junior year at Miami of Ohio, the Celina, Ohio, native decided he wanted to do something to help others.
"One of the main reasons I wanted to start it was to keep things in perspective for me,'' Reichard said. "We got treated very well at Miami, and I felt I needed to do a little more to give back. It helped student-athletes as much as the kids to keep things in perspective.''
Reichard, an All-American and Central Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year during his career, started the Swoop's Stoop program at Miami, named after the school's RedHawk mascot. The goal is to provide life-enrichment experiences to children facing life-changing illnesses. Teaming with Cincinnati Children's Hospital, the charity encourages Miami athletes to visit the hospital and invite children to be recognized at RedHawks' hockey games where they receive tickets, T-shirts and refreshments.
"It's gotten bigger than I ever dreamed,'' Reichard said. "It was just kind of an idea. It was something that I wanted to start, and I didn't want to do it for a year or two and then see it die out when I left. I wanted something that was going to last for a while.''
Longevity was almost assured when the program recently received full university status as a student-run organization. Swoop's Stoop now involves more Miami teams and funding. Donations helped the organization recently renovate three activity rooms at the hospital.
"It's pretty remarkable for a college-age kid to step up and do something like that and then to carry on after he's done with school,'' said Komets defenseman Joe Hartman who was a teammate at Miami and was with Reichard the first time he visited the hospital. "It's something he truly wants to do. It's not just to see his name out there.
"If you know anything about Cody, he's a guy who is passionate about things like that, being a good citizen and doing the small things. If you spend five minutes with him, you'd know it's in his character. He doesn't go out and showboat it.''
During his senior year, Reichard auctioned off his goalie mask for $1,200 and organized a special jersey the team wore for a weekend before being auctioned. The program has raised more than $20,000, some of it used to buy Christmas presents for the children.
"I've been fortunate enough to have good parents who taught me to give back,'' Reichard said. ``To go down there and see the things those kids are going through, I think almost helped me more than it helped the kids, just see what a good attitude they have. Hopefully this just gives them a night to forget about whatever else they have going on.''
Information about the charity and ways to donate can be found at Miami's athletic website, www.muredhawks.com.