By @MichaelCaples –
It didn’t take long for Will Petschenig to make an impact on the Saginaw community.
An off-season acquisition for the Spirit, Petschenig created the program “A Heart Like Mine” to reach out to children and families grieving the loss of a loved one.
That, along with other activities, has led to Petschenig being named the Ontario Hockey League’s Humanitarian of the Year.
“On behalf of the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region and the Saginaw Spirit, I am honoured to receive the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy for OHL Humanitarian of the Year,” said Petschenig in a release. “I would like to thank Charley Porter and the Spirit staff for sharing my vision with “A Heart Like Mine” and Camille Nitschky from Children’s Grief Center for giving me the opportunity to meet some great kids. When we started “A Heart Like Mine”, I wanted to do something to honour my dad, and making kids happy was the best way I could do that. I will continue to stay in contact with the kids and be there for them if they need me. Seeing the kids happy and smiling is what makes me happiest.”
Petschenig lost his father, Dan, in 2013. He started “A Heart Like Mine” to share and create memories with others by offering families the chance to attend a Spirit game. Throughout the last season – his lone campaign with the Spirit – Petschenig hosted over 30 families at Saginaw games, giving them a VIP experience of free tickets, a pregame dinner with Will, watching warm-ups from the team bench, a behind-the-scenes tour, a Zamboni ride and a post-game meet-and-greet with Will and the rest of the Spirit.
“Will Petschenig’s “A Heart Like Mine” program with the Saginaw Spirit has been invaluable to our kids at the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region,” said Camille Nitschky, Director, Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region in the release. “He is one of the most outstanding young men I have ever met. He has connected with our kids at the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region in a way that has lifted their spirits, mentored good team building character, taught them how to thrive as an athlete and person and to never give up on their dreams.”
Petschenig served as an assistant captain for the Spirit this past season. He finishes his OHL career having played in 233 regular-season games, recording 11 goals and 48 assists. With his previous club, the Oshawa Generals, he was a two time-nominee for the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy, as well.
“On behalf of the entire Saginaw Spirit family, we congratulate Will and his courageous Warriors for winning this award,” said Spirit President and Managing Partner Craig Goslin. “Will exhibits his passion for helping others in so many things he does and has strong values in the overall manner that he makes decisions in his life. We are all very proud of Will and look forward to working with him well into the future, to pass on and continue to help the “Will’s Warriors” kids and “A Heart Like Mine” project.”
The Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy remembers the former Owen Sound Platers captain, who was named his team’s Humanitarian of the Year twice in recognition of his efforts to support community activities. Snyder passed away in 2003.