By Michael Caples -
Ryan Rabinowitz knows he is more fortunate than most.
As a freshman on Novi High School’s prep team, Rabinowitz has grown up with the blessings afforded to most hockey players.
And like most students his age, Rabinowitz is beginning community-service projects, both to fulfill requirements for his school and for his church.
Yet Rabinowitz wants to do more than what a normal student his age would want to do. Rabinowitz wants to make another kid’s wish come true.
When he was in fourth grade, Rabinowitz and a group of classmates worked with the Make-A-Wish foundation to make a wish come true for a local girl battling a terrible illness. Years later, he helped serve food to homeless people on Cass Corridor in Detroit – a second eye-opening experience for a fortunate kid.
“I went down there and I didn’t know what to expect,” Rabinowitz said. “I had never really done something like that before. It was really cold, and I was like ‘boy, I kind of regret coming down here.’ It was pretty tough. All of a sudden, we start setting up to give them food, and there’s just lines of people. I look down the lines, and there are little kids there, and they haven’t eaten in a week. It’s like, wow, I can go home to a nice warm house, have a cup of hot chocolate, sit down and watch TV, and these kids are probably walking around the streets with their little peanut butter and jelly that we just handed them, and after this meal they might not eat for another week. It’s so unfortunate, especially in the hard economic times and for other reasons, that there are people who can’t come to a nice rink like this, or can’t go to a nice home. Especially with the kids; my whole life, I think I’ve been handed a lot of things.”
So when it came time to pick a community-service project, Rabinowitz gravitated back to the foundation he knew could make a difference in a child’s life.
“I have such a blessed life, and I’m so grateful for everything that I have,” Rabinowitz said. “A lot of kids, they don’t have the opportunity to play hockey like you and I could – and hockey, it’s the greatest sport in the world – so kids were really what I was trying to focus on. I was talking with my mom trying to get ideas for community service, and everyone does the food bank and little things just to go along with it, but I really wanted to kind of reach out, do a little bit more, and especially with Make-A-Wish, because I think they do a great thing.”
Rabinowitz started a program he named “Round Up At The Rink” – asking arenas across the state of Michigan to round up on their concession stand sales, and donate the extra money to Make-A-Wish.
“My mom, she would always say that [when] my brother comes to the rink to watch the games, she spends a small fortune with him at the concession stand, and that’s all he comes to do. We thought it would be a good idea that when people come to the concession stand, they round up their order. So if it’s a $1.20, they round up 80 cents, and that money goes to Make-A-Wish. We just felt that because there are a lot of people coming to rinks to watch games and stuff, we thought it would be a good way to raise money.”
Rabinowitz contacted MAHA president George Atkinson, who assisted the Novi Prep defenseman with reaching out to rinks across the state. The freshman has been sending out packets of information about his mission, and while he has yet to hear back from most, he did land one big partner already – the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Red Wings’ AHL affiliate ‘round up’ for their home games on Nov. 23 and Nov. 25.
“When I heard from the Griffins, I was like ‘Wow’, I never knew that that could reach out to them, they’re such a big-market team and they’re affiliated with the Red Wings,” Rabinowitz said. “They got a little flyer out, they had a press release out…they had posters up and stuff. They really tried to get the word out. It was real cool to talk to people from the Griffins and they said that if we need any help, to reach out with marketing or anything, that would be cool…I’ve always loved watching the Griffins play.”
With a mindset like his at such a young age, it’s no surprise that Rabinowitz gravitated to Steve Yzerman growing up as a hockey fan in Michigan.
“His skill obviously; he’s way up there,” Rabinowitz said. “But I think Steve Yzerman, being the captain for 23 years, this man on and off the ice, the amount of respect the players gave him, and what he did to give back to the community – he’s just a class act. He’s been my idol since I was a little kid, and just the way he could play the game with such skill and talent and to lead a team for 23 years and accomplish what he’s done, and again with so much respect…I’ve always looked up to him.”
Rabinowitz hopes to move from the prep squad to the Novi varsity team soon, and play for coach Todd Krygier. He also wants to wear a ‘C’ on his jersey someday, just like his idol. And if his hockey dreams pan out the way he hopes they do, he will skate for Red Berenson and the Wolverines, then eventually with the Red Wings.
However, law school at the University of Michigan doesn’t seem like a bad option to him, either.
“I’ve always been told that I’m kind of a stubborn kid; I always have an excuse for everything,” Rabinowitz said. “With my parents, there’s a little argument back and forth, and I always have something clever to say, so I’d like to be a sports lawyer I guess, something like that. I always want to work around sports, that’s the biggest part of my life, and I think being a lawyer would be cool. I want to go to U of M – that’s been my dream since I was a kid.”
And while he continues to pursue his own dreams, he’s going to keep working on helping others with theirs. If that’s not inspiring for the hockey people of Michigan during this holiday season, this writer doesn’t know what is.
To find out how you can help Ryan help the Make-A-Wish Foundation, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.