In 2004 an East Baltimore resident named Noel Acton founded The Tender Bridge, an outreach program for community youth.
The Tender Bridge’s mission is to help severely life-challenged kids feel better about themselves and their community by offering various recreational programs and outlets, as well as closing the gap between these children and available programs that can provide aid.
Like most organizations helping Baltimore’s youth, The Tender Bridge is sustained 100% by volunteer personnel and community donations. Funds raised are invested back into the organization for sports equipment, gas and transportation, meals for kids and other incidentals the program’s participants may need.
One of those volunteers is Toms River, NJ native Matt Leone, a former lacrosse standout for Toms River North. Leone recently began serving as an on-ice coach for the Baltimore Banners, The Tender Bridge’s ice hockey program composed of skaters ages 13 and up to young adults.
In addition to providing a safe, fun and competitive atmosphere for this group of youths to learn the game, Leone said the program’s impact on the lives of his players extends far beyond than the X’s and O’s
The Banners’ Regular games and training sessions in the Mimi DiPietro Skating Center in Patterson Park provide structure, and help these young athletes develop life skills and a greater sense of community.
“The day starts with volunteers making the rounds and picking players up to bring them to practice for the day. After an hour session on the ice, the coaches and team members usually go get food as a team,” Leone said in a recent email exchange with Shore Hockey Report. “The players truly see themselves as a family, and hold themselves accountable for one another.”
Leone said communication is key to this hockey family both on and off the ice.
“Coaches and volunteers communicate with the players on a regular basis. Aside from succeeding on the ice, it is just as important to foster success off it. This includes helping players find and apply for jobs, and pursue entrepreneurial interests as well.”
Later this month, Just Stunt Productions will shed more light on this integral program with the July 26th release of “Not Just a Game: The Story of Savage.”
The short film documents the tale of its central subject, Savage, a young man from East Baltimore who is in his first season of ice hockey.
“The documentary following Savage last season is a great one,” Leone said. “It really shows just how far Mr. Noel and his team are willing to go to help our players.”
You can also help the program raise funds for new uniforms by visiting the organization’s GoFundMe page.