Rush to Read: Educational program includes hockey game

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Students from across the Black Hills got to attend a Rapid City Rush game like no other on Wednesday.

Black Hawk Elementary School third-grader Breanna Hansen stood on the ice at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, surrounded by thousands of her peers. She was set to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the Rush took on the Utah Grizzlies.

Suddenly, a familiar face appeared from the bleachers and onto the ice. It was her mother, Joni. The U.S. Air Force Tech Sargent had returned from a seven-month deployment in Southeast Asia the night before.

When asked about how she felt about the surprise, Breanna said she was “really, really happy.”

Breanna was one of thousands of students who were treated to a Rush game for free as part of the Rush to Read program. The free game was made possible by donations from season ticket holders, Vast Broadband, and Black Hills Energy. 

The Rush, the United Way of the Black Hills and the Rapid City Area School District (RCAS) teamed up to instill good reading habits in students. During the Rush to Read More program, students and families took photos as they read to friends, neighbors, and family. Rush players also visited and read to students in the classroom.

“The energy and excitement in this arena, I think is unlike anything the Rush have ever heard before,” said RCAS Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon. She also described Wednesday's game as the pinnacle of the campaign. 

The program is part of RCAS’s strategic plan, which hopes to create and foster literacy in schools.

READ MORE: Rapid City Rush reads to students

“We want more students reading by the end of third grade,” said Simon. “Reading well so that they are successful in school and in life.”

For many of the children, it was their first Rush game.

“We anticipate that we have about 3,500 children here today that have never been to a Rush game,” said Rapid City Rush President Joe MacDonell, “And we would like to think that they’ll fall in love with the Rush, with the players, with [mascots] Nugget, Digger, and all of the other fun things we have here at a Rush game.”

For the players and students like Breanna, it was an unforgettable time.

“We just want to say thanks to everyone," said Simon. "The kids are having a wonderful time. And go Rush nation!” 

Not only was it a good day for the students, but for the Rush as well. They were victorious over the Grizzlies with a score of 6-3. 

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