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Helping Kids Play Hockey, One Donation at a Time

By Nicholas Loffredo, Wyckoff Patch, 3/12/10

Ice hockey is not a game easily played; any committed player knows the sport is costly. From sticks to masks to pads to skates, it can easily cost hundreds of dollars for equipment that sees much wear and tear, making the sport prohibitive for the less fortunate.

But with a Ramapo student's help, kids from urban areas will be able to suit up and hit the ice—for free.

Brandon Nicodemo, a junior and member of the school's ice hockey team, has launched a Web site, www.secondtimerink.com, to solicit donations of used hockey equipment for distribution to economically disadvantaged youths.

"It's nice to help out and make someone happy," the Wyckoff resident said.

Although its only been active for a few weeks, Nicodemo is already receiving interest from people with old equipment taking up space in the basement. Those interested in donating need only contact him through the site; Nicodemo will take care of the rest, from arranging for pickup to distribution.

Donations will get to needy kids via Hockey in Newark, a nonprofit organization that has partnered with the New Jersey Devils, the Newark Public Schools and the Newark Recreation Department to both teach urban children the game and provide them the equipment to hit the ice.

The organization was born out of the efforts of East Side High School hockey coaches Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe, who helped resurrect a moribund hockey program at the Newark school that was failing before the men were hired in 2003. After many donations of equipment and many hours of teaching the game, the coaches began to draw more kids to the team, which made the playoffs in 2006. Hockey in Newark was launched to support that progress, and it soon attracted powerful sponsors.

However, while Hockey in Newark benefits from a corporate sponsor such as the Devils, it is reliant on the efforts of volunteers like Nicodemo to continue its mission.

"Hockey in Newark would not have the success it has had thus far without the help from people like Brandon. The hockey world is filled with some of the best people, and Brandon exemplifies teenagers at their best," Veltre said.

Nicodemo first became involved in the effort last year, when the Devils fan learned of Hockey in Newark while attending a game at the Prudential Center. After looking over a flier, he "thought about it and figured I could help," he said.

The then-sophomore set out to hold a charity drive for old hockey equipment at Ramapo. Word quickly spread, and the week-long drive was so successful, his father had to rent a van to deliver the donations to Hockey in Newark.

"Bins were overflowing," Nicodemo said. "From the great response, I figured, wow, I can definitely do more."

With the help of a relative who owns a Web design firm in California, Second Time Around the Rink was born. Nicodemo designed the site's logo himself, featuring two sticks and a puck, meant to evoke the familiar recycling logo. People interested in donating can fill out a form located on the site or contact Nicodemo via e-mail (info@secondtimerink.com) or phone (201-848-7637). Now that he has his license, the Ramapo student will go to homes himself to pick up equipment.

The effort is a natural outgrowth of the teen's love for the sport, which began when he started playing roller hockey as a small boy. After hitting the ice for the first time in middle school, he was hooked.

"Once you get into ice hockey, you want to play. Whenever you can get on the ice, you do," he said.

Nicodemo's on the ice often; he plays on club teams in the fall and spring and trains in the summer. Winter's are reserved for Ramapo, where he was a member of the junior varsity this season. Although the team will lose six players to graduation from a group that reached the state quarterfinals this year, Nicodemo said "we'll be strong next year" under the leadership of coach Lee Barber.

With senior year looming, Nicodemo will have to start thinking about life after high school soon. He's not yet sure of what he'd like to study but is interested in attending Fairfield University, where his brother, Matthew, is a student, or possibly Loyola or Villanova.

Nicodemo knows he's fortunate to live in Wyckoff and attend Ramapo, afforded opportunities that not all children experience. He realizes that hockey can be a luxury and just wants to do whatever he can to help others play the game he loves.

That support is much appreciated, Veltre said.

"I am extremely proud of the children who are in the Hockey In Newark program, but I am equally proud of the young men who are still in high school and sacrifice a lot of their spare time to be involved with Hockey In Newark. In the end, Brandon exemplifies what our program is all about. It's a win-win situation when you can bring suburban and urban children together to share in a common bond and passion."

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