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Lumberjacks raise $15k for Defending the Blue Line

February 18, 2015

By Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times

Rocky Johnstone and Matt Hendricks started a friendship while Hendricks played for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team from 2000-04.
 
That friendship, along with the dedication of Johnstone and the Granite City Lumberjacks' staff, helped the team raise a significant amount for a charitable cause last winter.
 
The Lumberjacks had their second benefit for Defending the Blue Line on Saturday at Sports Arena East. Granite City played host to the Twin City Steel for an NA3HL junior hockey game.
 
Through the event and the sales of the specialty jerseys worn by the Lumberjacks that were specifically made for the event by OT Sports, Granite City was able to raise $15,000 for the cause.
 
Defending the Blue Line (www.defendingtheblueline.org), a nonprofit organization, works to help ensure that children of military members are afforded opportunities to participate in hockey. It provides free equipment for military kids, hockey camps, special events and financial assistance for registration fees and costs associated with hockey.
 
Last year, the Lumberjacks' benefit night helped raise more than $7,500 and this season's total doubled that. Defending the Blue Line is helping more than 20,000 military families nationally and is based in Hastings.
 
Johnstone, one of Granite City's co-founders and a partner of owner John Hall, said that the amount raised surprised Defending the Blue Line founder/president Shane Hudella.
 
"It really just kind of dumbfounded him," Johnstone said. "When I texted Shane that we'd raised $7,500, he calls me and says, 'Rocky, you aren't kidding are you?' I said, 'No, we'll send the check out this week.' He was very grateful."
 
The organization
 
Hudella served in the Army National Guard from 1988-2012 and Defending the Blue Line became an official organization in 2009. The organization is mostly volunteers and they are helping more than 5,000 families in Minnesota.
 
Hudella admits that he underestimated what the Lumberjacks would be able to raise last year.
 
"We have so many people reaching out and want to help that we have to make decisions on which ones to put our energy into," said Hudella, who has four sons who have all played hockey. "There have been some NHL teams and minor league and major junior teams where we might get a $500 donation and we appreciate that.
 
"But we don't have a ton of staff to put the energy into that. When the Lumberjacks got us that big check, it was such an eye-opener. We never expected a junior team to raise that much money. It's really a testament to Rocky and the organization that took the mission to heart and put a lot of energy to help us out."
 
Hudella said that Defending the Blue Line will be sending its ATV, trailer and "all of our bells and whistles" to the Lumberjacks game Saturday.
 
The Lumberjacks will wear special uniforms for that game that will be sold in a silent auction.
 
Other silent auction items include camouflage jerseys signed by Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild, Nate Schmidt of the Washington Capitals and Hendricks of the Edmonton Oilers; a puck signed by all of the Oilers; four tickets to a Wild game against the Colorado Avalanche; a jersey signed by all the Lumberjacks; and hats signed by Schmidt and Hendricks.
 
There also will be raffle tickets sold for two chances to shoot a puck from 100 feet away into a small opening on a net. If one of the contestants does that, they will win $10,000. Tickets for that drawing will be $2 apiece, three for $5, seven for $10 or 20 for $20.
 
The goal is to raise more than $10,000. Johnstone said that the team is already more than halfway there.
 
"The Metro Lions Club is going to present a check for $5,000 at the event," said Johnstone, who, along with Hall, has been a member of the club for more than 20 years.
 
A friendship
 
Johnstone got the idea for the first event after having a few conversations with Hendricks.
 
Hendricks and his wife, Kim, got involved with Defending the Blue Line early on.
 
"I heard about it from some friends and my wife and I both thought about what a great opportunity it was," said Hendricks, whose father served in the Marines. "We were looking for something to get involved with in the community and charitable work.
 
"What Shane has done with his organization is tremendous for military families."
 
When Hendricks made the suggestion to Johnstone, it did not take a lot of convincing.
 
"When parents are deployed, it's very difficult on a family and there are a lot of missed things," Johnstone said. "It's something near and dear to our hearts."
 
 
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