By Ben Cowlishaw
In addition to the number of goals scored or shots saved on ice, another important impact a Capitals player can have in the D.C. area often occurs away from the rink.
Through the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation program So Kids Can, launched in 2008 by former Capitals defenseman Mike Green along with the Elliot in the Morning Show’s Elliot Segal, Capitals players are raising money to improve the community in which they live.
This season, Segal, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and Tom Wilson are donating $50 per Capitals win during the regular season and $100 per Capitals win during the playoffs to the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Greater Washington, DC KIDS Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® (KMMC/RMCM). At the end of the season, they’ll present a check to the organization in addition to spending time with the community members KMMC/RMCM serves.
So Kids Can is the brainchild of Segal, who started the program in the wake of another charitable program Segal ran with former Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, Olie and Elliot’s Great Saves. Segal and Green developed So Kids Can out of a shared interest to continue making an impact in the community, deciding to select an area nonprofit whose mission is focused on improving the lives of local youth to be a partner and beneficiary of the program each season.
Since then, as the Capitals roster evolved, so has the players involved with So Kids Can. Backstrom joined the program in 2011, and Holtby jumped onboard in 2015. Past Capitals players who also participated include former Caps defenseman Karl Alzner and former center Brooks Laich.
This year, Tom Wilson jumped at the opportunity to join So Kids Can, a decision he says was easy to come to.
“It’s helping kids out, it’s almost a no brainer for me,” Wilson said. “Helping kids have a better life, have a better childhood, it goes a long way. I think every kid should have the chance to enjoy themselves and have a good upbringing, and just be a kid. It’s something that is important to me.”
While the primary mission of So Kids Can is fundraising for the selected partner, opportunities arise throughout the season for players to interact with and influence area kids – something Wilson is especially looking forward to.
“Between the four of us donating the money, that’s all good, but I also want to be involved, go and meet kids and try and have an impact on them, and make sure that I can do whatever I can to make their life a little happier, or even have a little more fun that day,” Wilson said.
To date, So Kids Can has raised more than $350,000 for charity through player contributions and additional fundraisers including the So Kids Can Starting Lineup Auction, which offers the winner the opportunity to announce the Capitals’ starting lineup in the Capitals locker room prior to a preseason game.
Past beneficiaries of So Kids Can include Martha’s Table, Horton’s Kids, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, KaBOOM!, Dr. Bear’s Toy Closet at Children’s National and Pediatric Prosthetics.
Last season, So Kids Can raised $30,267.88 for Martha’s Table, which supports and promotes access to education programs, healthy food, and family support.
“[Martha’s Table] believes that every child deserves the opportunity for their brightest future, and a deeply engaged family and community committed to their success,” Martha’s Table Director of Healthy Eating Caron Gremont said.
According to Gremont, the impact So Kids Can had on Martha’s Table, and the charity’s ability to reach their goals, was significant.
“In September, we added 10 new markets and now are at 39 elementary schools throughout the school year,” Gremont said. “Also, the Capitals have a broad, passionate group of supporters in the District. Martha’s Table relies on the support and dedication of over 18,000 volunteers every year. We currently have a shortage of Joyful Food Market volunteers, so having partners like the Capitals/So Kids Can is helpful for raising awareness of our needs. The opportunity to share our work with Capitals fans deepens our own community of supporters and advances the possibilities of our work.”
This year’s So Kids Can beneficiary, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC (RMHCDC), has made it their mission to increase access to quality healthcare for underprivileged children, and enable the families of those children to better comfort and support them.
Their executive director, Karen Torres, was overjoyed when she found out RMHCDC had been selected by the So Kids Can program.
“We were thrilled and grateful to learn that RMHCDC was chosen,” Torres said “We love the Caps and truly appreciate the team and players' culture of giving back to the community.”
In addition to the support and donations they will receive from Capitals players, Torres is looking forward to the increase in awareness that So Kids Can will bring to the organization. With the funds raised this season, RMHCDC will be able to provide free care to those who need it most in the region.
“The support of So Kids Can will not only bring in needed donations, but also awareness of our mission and programs to a much broader audience,” Torres said.
Torres said proceeds will benefit the organization’s KIDS Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program, which provides free medical, dental and vision services to kids under 21 in underserved areas of Washington, D.C.”
In 2016, the KMMC/RMCM provided 1,158 patient visits to underserved kids in D.C. Wards 4-8. This mobile "doctor's office on wheels" provides improved access to quality health care where children need it most - in their community.
While the beneficiary of So Kids Can changes each season, the mission remains the same – it’s all about the kids.
“It will be nice to hit the half million dollar mark,” Segal said. “The focus has never changed. So Kids Can is not just the name, it’s the start of a statement. So Kids Can play safely. So Kids Can play. So Kids Can receive more efficient care. So Kids Can be healthy. So Kids Can be kids.”
For more, pick up the October issue of the Capitals Game Program at Capital One Arena