December 14, 2009

A Crusader For Kids

Video: Peter Lorinser On The Crusader For Kids Program

By Jennifer Leavitt
Special to GoHolyCross.com

As a kid growing up in Marquette Michigan, Peter Lorinser would look forward to the occasions when college hockey players would return home with stories about new experiences at school. He looked up to these guys who had succeeded in crossing the threshold from high school hockey to the collegiate level, an advancement he hoped to make in the future. He soaked up any advice they gave knowing one day he could be in their position. Now a senior hockey player at Holy Cross, Peter plays the same role as his childhood heroes. Through a program called Crusaders for Kids, he offers local Worcester elementary school students a chance to interact with, learn from, and simply have fun with Holy Cross athletes through a series of events planned throughout the year. Realizing how he had benefited from positive influences growing up, he aims to give back to the local inner city kids in the same way.

Crusader for Kids was originated by Cal St. Denis, a former Holy Cross hockey player in 2005. The program essentially takes the Big Brother Big Sisters concept and applies it to Holy Cross athletes (primarily the Hockey team) and a group of Grafton Street Elementary School 4th and 5th grade students. Throughout the year the program plans different events such as going to the movies or attending different athletic events (Holy Cross, Worcester Sharks, Harlem Globe Trotters, etc...), as well as different activities including bowling or pick-up basketball and touch football. When Peter was a freshman in 2007, Cal encouraged him and other players to get involved with the different events he planned as director. Peter regularly helped out and began to appreciate what a great program it was. Coming from a small town in Michigan, experiencing the life of the Worcester youth was eye opening. "The majority of these kids are not well off... I have never been in the situation they are in and it has made me see I took a lot for granted," said Lorinser. "The Crusaders for Kids program offers them a great opportunity to do something different and have fun, free of charge." When Cal graduated, Peter took over as director of the program realizing it would be a shame to let it go.

As director of the program since 2008, Peter's role is to first establish the group of kids who will be involved at the start of the year and to then set up events while keeping an open line of communication with parents. Peter also manages transportation details and informs team mates about upcoming plans so they can participate. Crusader for Kids Assistant Directors, Mark Znutas, junior hockey player, and Ryan Driscoll, senior hockey captain, help Peter in arranging the particulars associated with each activity. Jen Kagno, the Holy Cross Manager of Events and Promotions, also assists in the organization of events and making sure they go as planned.  Like any other program, Crusader for kids runs into different problems. With conflicting schedules and the need for funding of each activity, it requires a lot of work, but in the end it has a positive impact on the children involved.

Peter can see the results of his hard work first hand. The program puts the kids in situations where they are outside of the comfort zone of their parents; they have to interact with adults and take direction. Peter says, "Being with the same kids year after year, you see their mannerisms improve. It's fun to watch them grow up."  Perhaps there is some growing up seen on the other end as well. The hockey players who volunteer have come to understand the position they are in and what their role is in the community. Spending time with local kids who look up to them, they have come to realize how much they have in common. They are able to relate to these kids who are in such a different situation than they are in or have ever been in. Peter says being a part of Crusader for Kids has definitely changed a lot of perspectives.

At the same time, spending time with the children has served as an outlet for those involved and a fun and relaxing break from the stress associated with school and hockey. Peter says one event that stands out in his memory was a pickup basketball game at Holy Cross. Ten kids played against 10 hockey players- the kids won. Occasions like this example are chances for everyone to let go of their problems and just have fun. Although it may be something small, Peter says it makes a difference.

Both Cal and Peter, who hold Crusader for Kids close to their hearts, would like to see it expand and improve in the future. They hope to perfect the organization of the program so events occur on a regular basis (perhaps every other Wednesday). They would also like to establish more substantial funds for events that require money. Peter says hopefully after he graduates he can set up a fundraiser prior to the following school year so that money will be available to the following director, Znutas, whenever it is needed. In addition to improving their own program, Cal and Peter would like to help develop a Crusader for Kids specifically for girls. The idea is to have a girl's team (yet to be decided) do essentially the same thing the hockey team does, plan their own events for local Worcester girls.

Having had to manage the responsibilities of hockey, Crusader for Kids, a regular job at the rink, giving volunteer hockey lessons and regular school work, has challenged Peter and being a senior now, he says it has made him a better person. He worked in Washington D.C., this past summer in the U.S. Department of State as a Federal Assistance Intern. He says coming out of Holy Cross, he felt prepared having already learned how to manage a demanding schedule. Peter says some people ask him how he was able to keep up with academics while on the hockey team. He tells them, "hockey helps me to keep up with academics." Having an extra schedule with additional responsibilities has forced him to him to get things done in a timely manner, never leaving anything to the last minute. Having overcome the challenges each year has presented him, Peter now feels like he could handle just about anything.

All Peter wants to do the rest of his senior year is just "take it all in." He says it is weird knowing that after playing hockey for his entire life, the rest of this season holds his final games. "This is something I've been doing for so long and everything has been geared toward this." Trying not to think about it too much, he wants to embrace what he has left and at the end he can know he put everything he had into it. For the rest of the season, Peter says the team has to improve. "In the past, our records have been like a rollercoaster- we'd win a few then lose a few. This year I'd like to see us get progressively better. We have all the pieces, enough talent and ability; if we just continue to take the steps up the ladder and not get set back, we will do some damage and finish at the top of the league."

As for Peter's plans after graduation, he is still weighing his options. "I'm open-minded and it's somewhat difficult because I'm interested in just about everything." The political science major is considering graduate school and the Peace Corps, while thinking about jobs he has already gotten a taste for through internships. Whatever path Peter chooses will surely be paved with success. He has a passion for the all the things he becomes involved in and has an inherent desire to improve his environment. Whichever institution, company, or organization he chooses to be a part of will be very lucky to have him. They'll have to wait though; Peter is in no hurry for this part of his life to end. He won't be looking too far ahead; his focus is on today.