Within the first few weeks following Kelly’s death, Jane and I began talking about ways to honor her life. Kelly loved hockey, the game, the camaraderie, the competition. She often talked about the need to help inner city kids learn to play the game so important to her and our family.
I shared these thoughts with her HS hockey coach Eric Johnson. EJ mentioned MYHA parent J Lindsay had been involved with a group called Dinomights. J had been a coach and volunteer for several years after Dinomights was founded in 1995 by a youth pastor named John Foley.
EJ and I met with the Dinomights' director Scott Harmon and we knew Dinomights was the perfect fit. Its mission was exactly what Kelly would love -- Academic, Social, Spiritual and Athletic development for kids in the Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central neighborhoods of south Minneapolis. Hockey was the draw, but it offered much more. John Foley chose hockey because it broke stereotypes. If poor inner city kids could play hockey, then they might also break the status quo and graduate from High School. And he was right -- 85% of Dinomights graduate from high school vs. the Minneapolis average of 55%. Most importantly, Dinomights could help these kids develop their faith and feel a belonging as a part of a family.
The partnership between the Kelly Phillips Foundation and Dinomights continues to grow. Many parents, coaches and players of MYHA and both girls and boys Skipper HS teams have become involved.
The first event was held in October 2008, shortly after the 1 year anniversary of Kelly’s accident. A small group from within the Minnetonka hockey community organized an equipment drive, fund raiser and barbecue at the High School. It was a tremendous success. The group has evolved into the Kelly Phillips Foundation Hockey Committee that continues to help with Dinomight activities. The group includes Jill Ramsey, Sharon Morgan, Bryan and Jo Ellen Price, Eric Johnson, J Lindsay and Sue Holl.
Annual Dinomights Fundraiser
The Dinomights Fundraiser is held each November and the Kelly Phillips Foundation sponsors several tables. In 2011, 38 friends of Kelly attended and supported the event. A total of 240 guests were there which is a record number of attendees, and as a result, the most money Dinomights has ever raised. The banquet program has a number of Dinomights players involved, and many other Dinomights attend, so it is a great way to meet and talk to them.
Spiritual Development is an important part of the Dinomights mission. To help send Dinomights to summer church camp, the Kelly Phillips Foundation has hosted a car wash in the last 3 summers. Last July’s car wash was held at the parking lot of Westwood sports in Chanhassen. A number of Minnetonka hockey players, both men and women, worked this successful event.
Learn To Skate
This is the feeder program for Dinomights. Once a week for 5 weeks in April and May, all first graders are bused from Richard Green and Anderson Elementary Schools to Augsburg college to participate in the "Learn to Skate" program. Many of these kids are skating for the first time in their lives. Because over 200 kids participate, sessions are split between 2 groups each on 3 separate days. Friends of Kelly provide the volunteers for Thursdays. Volunteers include many players, coaches and parents of Minnetonka hockey. It is fun to watch the kids as they improve rapidly from week to week. There are a lot of smiles and excitement. Out of the learn to skate group, typically 25 to 30 kids end up joining Dinomights the next year.
Tonka Girls Head Coach Eric Johnson has been a strong supporter of Dinomights. In addition to participating in Learn to Skate, each August, his Impact Hockey group hosts a weeklong camp for Dinomights in Pagel Ice Arena at Minnetonka High School. Impact Hockey donates the ice and instructor's time. The Dinomights have a wonderful opportunity to improve their hockey skills and build relationships with the Impact Hockey staff.
Academic development is encouraged through a tutoring program. Currently 40 Dinomights, grades 2-8, meet with tutors on Tuesdays from 5:00 to 6:00 PM at Richard Green School mid October through April.
Dinomights currently fields two coed Mite teams, a Squirt Team, a Peewee Team and two Girls' teams. Dinomights does need more volunteers to help coach. This year, two former MYHA and Minnetonka High School players, Shelby Tuseth and Marit Zalensky were assistant coaches on the Polars girl's team.
Winter Coat Drive
The latest event for Dinomights was a winter coat drive. Last fall, there was a drop box at Pagel Ice Arena and a number of Minnetonka Youth Hockey girl’s teams got involved. Many great coats, hats and mittens were collected and given to Dinomights at their Christmas party in December.
Kelly Phillips Charitable Fund
The Kelly Phillips Charitable Fund is a donor advised fund managed by the Lutheran Community Foundation. The fund is used to support a number of different youth charities. This includes annual gifts to Dinomights and to the Minnetonka Youth Hockey Association scholarship program, which helps families struggling financially in our community to play hockey.
The Phillips Family is grateful for the support of the Minnetonka hockey community in the months and years following Kelly’s accident and for supporting the ongoing and growing relationship with Dinomights.
If you have questions or want to get involved, please talk to anyone on the Kelly Phillips Foundation hockey committee or contact us.
Dan and Jane Phillips