Coming off a three-game weekend, the Mahoning Valley Phantoms spent their day off Monday participating in "Relay for Life" activities at St. Patrick’s School in Hubbard, Ohio.
The day began with an assembly in St. Patrick’s gymnasium, with guest speaker and three-time cancer survivor Kayla Hankey addressing the students. After Hankey’a speech, Phantoms players lit luminarias on the gym’s stage to honor local men, women and children who fought cancer.
Defenseman John Houston, who was among those selected to light the luminarias during the ceremony, expressed pride over being able to participate in the ceremony.
“It was very meaningful to be up there and light the luminarias while the names were read,” said Houston. “The whole thing was very moving, to be able to honor the people who won their fight against cancer, the people who lost that fight and the ones who are still fighting it today.”
Following the ceremony, the players split up into groups, with some visiting the different classrooms around St. Patrick’s and others walking Relay for Life’s traditional laps around the gymnasium with the various classes at the school.
While the Phantoms were in the classrooms, they signed autographs on the back of the students’ Relay for Life shirts.
Phantoms captain Johnny Meo, who has been to all three Relay for Life days at St. Patrick’s, said he was happy to once again be a part of such an important event.
“It’s always great to help out the community, especially when we do so while representing the team,” said the third-year forward. “I liked Kayla’s speech, along with the information Relay for Life gave out. I think they’re sending a good message to these young kids to make the right choices and to really enjoy and cherish everything they do.”
After walking with the students and signing autographs, the Phantoms sat down for lunch with the student body at St. Patrick’s to round out their day in Hubbard.
St. Patrick’s pastor, Reverend Timothy O’Neill, said he was impressed with the Phantoms being so community-minded.
“(Team president) Bruce Zoldan and the Phantoms organization really do a great job getting involved in the community,” said Father O’Neill. “The team does a great job getting the most out of the players not only in terms of hockey skills, but also human relations and community involvement, like with the Phantoms players here today.”
This marks the third year that St. Patrick’s School has hosted a Relay for Life day. The Phantoms have been a part of all three.