Feb 12, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Joel Rumpel remembers looking up to college and professional hockey players as a kid and wishing he could be just like them. Now that he is in a position to be a role model to current youth hockey players, he is taking full advantage.
"To know that these kids look up to us so much is extremely humbling," Rumpel said. "Hearing them talk about wanting to be a goalie or player for the Badgers some day really brought me back to when I was just a kid hoping to some day be just like my idols."
Rumpel and the rest of the men's hockey team are pioneering an Adopt-A-Player program that connects them with eight local youth hockey clubs. The program lets youth teams from the Mite, Squirt, and Peewee levels "adopt" a Badger hockey player. The Badger player connects with the youth teams through in-person visits and monthly emails, which allows the Badgers to connect with their team on an on-going basis and form a more personal connection.
"The players are excited about the opportunity the program provides them to get to know their team beyond the scope of a one-time appearance," said Kayla Gross, UW community relations coordinator. "It's something we would like to incorporate with other teams as well."
Rumpel and teammate Frankie Simonelli had the opportunity to make their in-person visit recently, and enjoyed spending time with a group of kids who look up to them.
"Just seeing the kids' faces light up when Frank and I showed up was such an amazing experience," Rumpel said. "Everyone thinks that it's just a fun time for the kids, but I honestly think Frank and I had even more fun playing and joking around with all of the future hockey stars! I am thankful to have the chance to be a part of this program and hopefully I made a kid's day just like they made mine."