The Mark Messier Foundation (MMF) is dedicated to enhancing the educational opportunities, physical fitness, and overall health of New York City’s underserved children. An NHL icon, Messier grew up in Canada loving ice sports and learning important life-lessons from them. At the end of a career that included captaining the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup championship, Messier wanted to give back to his adopted hometown. This is the inspiration behind Inline-2-Ice (i2i), a fully-sponsored, sixteen-week academic and physical education program that challenges students as it helps them become healthier, more confident, and more aware of the opportunities life can offer.
To date MMF has focused on the Kingsbridge Heights community in the Bronx, where the “roll-out” of i2i began at PS 86, a Title 1 school, in the spring of 2015. More than 3,000 students at PS 86 have taken part to date. Using i2i’s curriculum, students are introduced to the four major ice sports – hockey, figure skating, speed skating, and curling – in the classroom and the gym. In the classroom students are taught the scientific principles and dynamics of each sport. In the gym, students are provided with in-line skates and given the opportunity to experience the joys and benefits of skating as they learn basic motor skills and movement patterns. Now entering its fourth year, i2i has become a model of efficient organization and implementation as it serves an ever-growing number of students.
Unquestionably, i2i supplements the limited physical education and recess opportunities available at PS 86 – a critical reason why the program has grown from a cautiously viewed pilot program to a highly-praised, thriving staple of the school’s offerings. The response from PS 86 has been overwhelming. One PS 86 teacher, Ms. Martinez, commented, “My students are not just learning how to skate, they are learning how to have more personal confidence and self-esteem; they are developing positive peer interactions, [and] they are learning to have higher expectations for themselves.” While another teacher, Mr. Shaw, added, “The i2i program has been a wonderful experience for my students…. As teachers, we are always trying to provide our students with opportunities to enjoy being in school while also having a meaningful learning experience. The i2i program does just that.”
MMF’s long-range plan is to provide the program to other schools throughout the Bronx and NYC to support the development of healthy lifestyles at an early age.