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Niagara-Wheatfield hockey team helps build service dog training facility

Niagara Gazette - 12/9/2022

Dec. 9—No matter how hectic someone's schedule might be, you can always find time to help out others.

Players for the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons varsity hockey team helped out the Buffalo-based WNY Heroes organization this past Sunday, a day after playing two games in Canton.

WNY Heroes is a nonprofit organization providing services for local veterans, including peer-to-peer support, financial services, and service dogs. The service dog program, "Positive for Heroes," started in 2014, paying for service dog training through help received from program sponsors. The veterans are referred to the program through the Veterans Administration, with the dogs provided for free.

WNY Heroes built a new service dog training school for the program with a grand opening planned for today. The Niagara-Wheatfield players helped install the new rubber floor and move furniture around. The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association 19-6 chapter in Batavia also helped out.

One of the hockey player's fathers is a sponsor for WNY Heroes. When Chris Krieger, the co-founder and president of WNY Heroes, told the sponsor what they were looking to do and that they needed help, Head Coach Rick Wrazin got contacted about having the team come out.

"We figured 21 guys could get a lot more done than five," Wrazin said.

What made the team's volunteer efforts more notable was their schedule the previous two days. The team left at 6 a.m. Friday morning to travel up to St. Lawrence County, at least a four-and-a-half hour drive nearly 300 miles away. They played against the Canton High School Golden Bears on Friday, winning 9-0, and the St. Lawrence Central Larries on Saturday, winning 5-2. After that victory, the team did not arrive back in Western New York until 11 p.m. Saturday night.

Wrazin said those were non-league games the team was invited to play and they like to take a trip every year.

"They didn't seem to be tired," Wrazin said as the players arrived at WNY heroes on Sunday at 10 a.m.

"Because the team came in, they pretty much finished 95% of the floor by the time they were done," Krieger said, with the 21 hockey players working five hours on Sunday. "If it wasn't for the help of these young men, we wouldn't be able to get it complete as quickly as we did. Their need for wanting to help a veterans organization so we can continue to serve veterans is admirable."

While the kids did all the labor, Wrazin and other parents were present supervising their work.

"They were happy to go out and help somebody," Wrazin said.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hockey team would help out different veterans organizations around the area, and this is them trying to get back into the swing of things.

"It lets the boys see that it's a good thing to help others when they need it," Wrazin said.

More information about WNY Heroes and the programs it offers can be found at


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