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Griffins Youth Foundation, City of Grand Rapids celebrate expansion of Griff's Ice House

Members of the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation, the Grand Rapids City Commission and DP Fox Sports and Entertainment celebrate the opening of a community room.
Rosalynn Bliss, James White, Lynn Rabaut and Ruth Kelly participate in ribbon cutting ceremony at Griff's Ice House

Rosalynn Bliss, James White, Lynn Rabaut and Ruth Kelly participate in ribbon cutting ceremony at Griff's Ice House /Mike Simmons

Tim Gortsma speaks before ribbon cutting

Tim Gortsma speaks before ribbon cutting /Mike Simmons

Ruth Kelly, Lynn Rabaut and Greg Sundstrom visit inside new community room

Ruth Kelly, Lynn Rabaut and Greg Sundstrom visit inside new community room /Mike Simmons

It’s easier to run an education program in a room that isn’t freezing.

This opinion was shared by various speakers and participants at Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the recently completed expansion of Griff’s Ice House, 30 Coldbrook St. NE.

The expansion is a 1,200 square foot multipurpose community room that houses the education program of the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation. The heated room contains the foundation’s library and computers and will host the foundation’s tutoring program as well as visits by representatives of local and state colleges and universities. The foundation will also use the room for off-ice conditioning.

The room is the product of the collaborative efforts of the foundation, the City of Grand Rapids and DP Fox Sports and Entertainment. 

Speaking at the event, James White, president of the Grand Rapids City Commission and  Third Ward commissioner, emphasized the collaborative roles of city government, local businesses, and private philanthropy in the room’s construction and preparation for use.

“The completion of the Griff’s Ice House community room is yet another example of public/private partnership at work to improve the lives of our citizens,” he said. “This is a proud moment for our community.”

White commended the foundation’s work reaching out to area youth, as did DP Fox executive and Griffins Senior Vice President of Business Operations Tim Gortsma. 

In his address, Gortsma paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

“Our city matters because of the children of our community matter,” Gortsma said.

Also speaking was Griffins Youth Foundation Executive Director Lynn Rabaut.

Rabaut emphasized the room’s practical benefits for the foundation’s participants and volunteers. 

For starters, the room will provide relief for those taking part in the foundation’s lengthy Saturday game schedule.

“It’s no fun being here for 10 hours on a Saturday freezing,” Rabaut said to an amused audience.

But Rabaut also stressed the educational opportunities the room affords the foundation’s players, paying particular attention to its high school students.

“This room will remind our older children that college is not a dream—it’s a possibility,” she said.  The room’s walls are decorated with designs representing colleges and universities in the Grand Rapids area and across Michigan.

Wendy Foy, the foundation’s educational director, said how difficult it was to try to run the education program last hockey season, and she anticipates that the heated room and its facilities will greatly improve the education program she runs.

“We tried to do this last year,” she said. “We couldn’t do it.”

“We can offer more to the kids [now] than we did last year,” Foy continued. “We can bring technology and reading and health fitness to the kids in the program. . . . I’m glad that it all came together.”

Two foundation players who have used the new room are Foy’s daughter Nicole Foy and Nicole’s friend Gretchen Blahnik.  Both are 15-year-old sophomores at Hudsonville High School who play in the foundation’s co-ed Norris division.

Gretchen noted that the room, whose floor pattern resembles that of a hockey rink, facilitates off-ice drills which improve players’ knowledge of the game.

“It’s a good way to learn to play hockey,” she said.

Both girls also appreciated what the new room offers them as students.

“It is immensely helpful to read and spend the day here,” said Nicole, who regularly accompanies her mother for long hours at the Ice House.

“It’s a good quiet place to study,” Gretchen added.

“And it’s warm!” interjected Nicole, smiling.

Second Ward commissioners Rosalynn Bliss and Ruth E. Kelly, city manager Greg Sundstom and Griffins Youth Foundation president Bob Kaser were also present at the event. 

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