By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – The Gwinnett Gladiators have several very popular promotions each season and right at the top of the list are the annual Teddy Bear Toss and specialty jersey auction.
Those have been going on for all six of the Gladiators’ seasons. A more recent addition, Pink in the Rink, also hits home for a lot of people because it supports women’s cancer research and education.
This year, Pink in the Rink and the associated specialty jersey raised more than $53,000. The Teddy Bear Toss saw more than 5,000 stuffed animals rain onto the ice and through the early spring, 20 different local youth-based charitable organizations benefited from teddy bear donations.
“Despite a somewhat ragged economy,” Gladiators director of community relations Jim Hall said, “our fans proved once again to be some of the most generous and dedicated in the ECHL.”
But those are far from all the things the Gladiators do to help the local community.
More than 200 various donations of team merchandise and gifts were made to local schools, churches and non-profit organizations during the year.
Team representatives made more than 175 appearances in the North Georgia community.
Area schools and other youth associations were able to support themselves through the team-sponsored collaborative fundraising programs, resulting in a whopping $42,000 through Gladiators game ticket sales, national anthem performances and community nights.
Nearly 77,000 students took part in the “Hat Trick for Reading” program that furnishes participates with tickets to Gladiator games.
Over 1,700 pounds of food were collected in the holiday Can-A-Thon, Coats for Kids brought in 400 jackets and the Christmas ornament auction raised $1,000.
At the final regular-season home game, the Gladiators celebrated the accomplishments of area non-profit organizations by recognizing and awarding more than $32,000 in grant money from the Gladiators’ Foundation for Kids.
“An active commitment to champion the cause of charitable efforts which benefit our community is a fundamental part of our team mission statement,” Hall said. “And the Gladiators pledge to renew our efforts in the upcoming 2009-10 season. With the continued support and incredible generosity of our fans and corporate sponsors, we are confident that these important community initiatives will continue to grow and prosper.”
For the second straight season, the Gladiators finished fourth in average attendance in the ECHL. They also made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year – the longest running streak of postseason appearances currently held by any Atlanta-based pro team.