Southern hockey shows support for ‘Skate for Leah’


From Left to Right: Shayne O’Brien, Steve Ruocco, Amber Monck, event coordinator with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Mike Piasecki, Blake Biancamano,Scott Casley. Dylan Gillis also attended but is not pictured.
Photo Credit: Shayne O’Brien

Philip Zoppi – Special to the Southern News 

Nineteen years ago, Leah Hall, a 14 year old Sacred Heart student, went to see her brother play hockey in New Hampshire. On the way home, a drunk driver struck her family’s car and Leah was killed in the process.

The Hall family and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, known as MADD, now hold an event called “Skate for Leah” every year in her remembrance. This event tries to help raise awareness and reinforce to our youth that drunk driving is not ok. This year, the Southern Connecticut State hockey team decided to get involved.

Their goalie, Shayne O’Brien, thought it was a great opportunity for him and his team to help a good cause.

“It was really cool to interact with the kids and talk to people who have been affected by the situation,” said O’Brien. “This program is a good reminder for all of our players since we’re all at that age where we need to be educated on stuff like this.”

The event took place at Southern’s home rink, The North ford Ice Pavilion. Over 300 people came to the event to support against drunk driving and underage drinking. The Southern hockey team helped the event move along smoothly.

During the event, team members skated around the ice and made sure that everyone was safe and having a good time. Many of the team members, including O’Brien himself, have been to this event before as kids. O’Brien expressed that he thought it was good for them to give back to an event like this. “It was fun to see the team in a different light. It was really cool to get out there and just be a part of it for all of us,” O’Brien said. None of this could have happened without the efforts of Amber Monck, a program specialist for MADD. She helped “Skate for Leah”  happen this year in a big way. On top of that, She’s very passionate about speaking out against drunk driving; and has been for a long time.

“I used to go around my high school and show pictures of drunk driving accidents to show my friends and students what can happen when you drink and drive,” said Monck. “I’m very passionate about what I do and try to help parents understand the dangers of underage drinking.”

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. This is a very serious issue and what Monck does, tries to prevent things like this. Monck and the Southern hockey team were able to raise about 6,000 dollars to help prevent underage drinking. A huge success for the MADD program and for Southern to be apart of.

MADD’s mission statement is to eliminate the crime of drunk driving, help fight drunk driving, help the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking. This is something the 35 year old organization prides itself on.

The Southern hockey team is interested in bringing MADD to Southern’s campus to try and help educate some of Southern’s students on these important topics. O’Brien is hopeful that they can achieve that goal.

“Our main goal is to bring MADD to Southern. I think we’re going to accomplish that and that it’d be a great thing for Southern,” said O’Brien.

Bringing an organization like MADD to Southern would help inform students on the dangers of drunk driving. Also, hopefully it helps in preventing tragedies like the one the Hall family had to experience.

O’Brien and the team hope they can continue to be apart of “Skate for Leah” in future years.

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