Tux teaches kindness

First Posted: 11/13/2014

Students at Ross Elementary School celebrated World Kindness Day with very special visitors on Nov. 13.

Tux, mascot for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, was joined by Mike O’Brien, director of Broadcasting and Communications, and Reid McNeill, defenseman, in encouraging students to work together as a team and show kindness to others.

Principal Lori Bednarek addressed students from kindergarten through sixth grade, reminding them of the school’s mission statement, which emphasizes a safe and respectful learning environment. She also encouraged them to have a good time as Tux’s antics provided an opportunity for fun and laughter.

“These are good kids,” said third-grade teacher Kim Chopyak. “They truly do treat each other well and are a pleasure to teach.”

Chopyak lauded the Penguins for their willingness to invest time and energy to benefit the local community. She said students were thrilled to meet Tux, asking every five minutes before the program, “Is it time yet?”

When it was time, students flooded the multipurpose room in anticipation of the assembly. The anti-bullying theme was reinforced by good spirited exchanges between Tux, O’Brien, and McNeill.

McNeill, at 6-foot-4, is this year’s tallest player. He said it was important to make the most of the assets of each member.

“We can’t win unless we work together as a team,” said McNeill. “Every time I take the ice, it is with four other players. We’re family and not simply a team.”

Hard work and team spirit have seemed to have worked well for the team this year. This season’s record of eight wins and three losses has put the Penguins in first place.

Liam Higgins-Morris, a fourth grader, had an opportunity to get a better understanding of what it feels like to take the ice and attempt to score. Clad in full Penguin uniform complete with an oversized hockey stick, he faced off against McNeill, amid Tux’s antics.

Higgins-Morris wanted to know how long Tux had been the mascot, to which Tux answered in Penguin, “15 years.”

When asked what he did before he was team mascot, Tux responded he was born a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin.

McNeill also took opportunity to explain to the students the difference between fighting on the ice and off the ice.

“Although there is occasionally a fight during a game, we all still have respect for each other, even for players from other teams,” he said, “I’ve never had a fight off the ice.”

O’Brien encouraged children to stick up for other students who are bullied. He used McNeill as an example of a leader who models good behavior for those around him.

He also encouraged students to seek the help of staff, teachers and parents.

“You have adults to help you if you don’t know what to do when a friend is going through a rough time,” he said.

O’Brien reinforced the value of education and of studying hard. He said, although professional players were able to have wonderful careers, schooling was a foundation for their long-term success.

McNeill encouraged students to start early to get good grades.

Students had a chance to ask questions about everything from Tux’s shoe size to other sports enjoyed by the players.

“I think I’ve played every sport but football,” said McNeill. “It’s a good thing to always be active.”

Tux dramatically indicated that not only did he enjoy swimming and basketball, but also karate.

O’Brien also emphasized during question and answer time that girls can absolutely play hockey, too, with many junior leagues including both males and females.

When asked who was familiar with the team, almost every hand went up. Children seemed to enjoy the theme, the day and the team spirit that permeated the event.

“If there is one thing I want you to take with you from this assembly,” said McNeill, “it’s to treat each other well.”

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