A Sense of Community Abounds at Flyers Wives Carnival

On the ice and in the sport of hockey, nothing is as crucial as the save. But for Comcast-Spectacor Charities, it’s the save off the ice that counts. Every year in late-February or early March, the Flyers Wives, a division of Comcast-Spectacor Charities, host The Flyers Wives Carnival, a fund-raiser event aimed toward the Flyers, their fans, and the community.

The 36th Annual Flyers Wives Carnival was held Sunday March 3rd from 1:30-6:00 p.m, where a sea of orange, not only from fans, but players—past and present– adorned the Wells Fargo Center. For some first-timers, like J.R. Carden of Philadelphia, the rookie experience was a bit much to take in all at once.

I literally just walked into the door, and I’m overwhelmed. It’s like a big family almost; no pushing, no shoving, just easy, nice fans everywhere. It’s pretty comfortable. My daughter is off and about, and I’m trying to figure out what to do for the day,” said Carden.

The official program for the 2013 Flyers Wives Carnival.  From left to right: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere.  Photo credit: Craig Miller

The official program for the 2013 Flyers Wives Carnival. From left to right: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere. Photo credit: Craig Miller

For Carden and others, plenty of options existed, all for a good cause. Current Flyers—names like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, Scott Hartnell, and Zac Rinaldo were signing autographs and taking pictures while up on the Mezzanine Level of the Wells Fargo was the “Alumni Alley,” where past players like Brian Propp, Jim Dowd, Ray Allison and Bob Kelly were mingling with fans.

Featuring its inception in 1977, the Flyers Wives Carnival grew following the death of former Flyers defenseman Barry Ashbee after a battle with leukemia.

It’s amazing how much it’s [The Carnival] grown. My first one was back in the ’80s, and [now in] 2013, it’s amazing how the charity keeps on growing and evolving and more and more people keep coming out. This definitely has to be one of the better run charities,” said former Flyer Ray Allison, who played with the club in the mid-1980s.

On its website, Comcast-Spectacor states: “Since its inception, Comcast-Spectacor Charities, which encompasses Flyers Charities and Global Spectrum Charities, has contributed $25 millionto charity. The funds raised during the annual Flyers Wives Carnival and other Comcast-Spectacor Charities fundraising events have helped support a multitude of worthy non-profit organizations that benefit everything from important healthcare initiatives such as: heart health and stroke and cancer awareness to various youth recreation programs and plenty more.”

Comcast-Spectacor offers support to over 60 charities in the Philadelphia region.

Located on the 11th Street Atrium inside the Wells Fargo Center was Briere’s Bunch, forward Danny Briere’s charity., which is affiliated with Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc.

Camp Good Days and Special Times helps children with cancer in both New York state and Pennsylvania providing camping programs at our recreational facility in Keuka Lake in New York. Today, we’re selling “Briere’s Bunch t-shirts as well as hats complete with Danny Briere’s autograph,” explained Lisa Donato, Regional Director of Camp Good Days and Special Times Inc.

For Mike from Hatfield, who has been attending the carnival for the last “seven or eight years,” the event itself doesn’t get any better.

Flyers Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in-between shots from various fans.  Photo credit: Sam Miller

Flyers Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in-between shots from various fans. Photo credit: Sam Miller

This is pure enjoyment in general,” he explained, while brandishing several autographed memorabilia, waiting for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to come out and sign. “I’m a little upset that they had to change the Yoda on Bryz’s mask from orange to green, but I understand.” Bryzgalov had his goalie mask changed heavily to a Star Wars-themed one two weeks ago, to the delight of many Star Wars—and Flyers—fans.

I absolutely plan on coming back again next year,” offered Mike.

However, fans aren’t the only ones who find themselves coming back year after year. For Jakki Clarke, the daughter of Flyers legend Bobby Clarke, the carnival has been a staple in her life.

I’ve been coming here since the beginning [1977]. It’s so much fun, and we’ve got the best fans of any city in the World,” said Clarke.

For a fee, fans were able to take shots on goaltenders Brian Boucher and Ilya Bryzgalov in the same net that goalies mind throughout the season. Where center ice would normally be was replaced by a “mystery bag” hand-out, where for $25, fans could receive a draw-string bag and it’s contents could contain an iPod speaker, an autographed puck by various current players or even a Flyers legend.

Fans of all ages were involved in Mario Kart with players like Luke Schenn, or NHL ’13 with Captain of the Flyers, Claude Giroux. Hockey die-hards could also take pictures with the Conn Smythe, Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophies, respectively. Returning to Philadelphia last week via trade, forward Simon Gagne proved to be a popular choice among everyone involved at the event, including Krystina Whetstien, who brought her newborn to the Carnival.

Simon Gagne’s definitely my favorite, any event with him is worth it. The Flyers fandom is definitely in him [her newborn] too.”

For many teams, the success of a charity event like the Flyers Wives Carnival is attempted, yet never duplicated.

This has been terrific. The entire league comes here to look at what the Flyers do, much more than just the NHL. Every sport virtually, Major League Baseball, [The National] Football [League], they’ve all sent representatives to see how the Flyers did it, how they integrate with the community. All the charities that have benefited get bigger and bigger. Now the great thing is that you actually see fans from back in the ’80s now with their kids coming to this. The Flyers have had this “family” built in earlier than most,” said Al Morganti, game analyst for CSN Philadelphia and WIP personality.

Hell, the Will-Call folk are like family,” suggested Carden.

It was apparent a sense of community was present throughout the day, whether it be winning one of ten dog tags with a Flyers player on it, or waiting in line for a Danny Briere autograph/photograph combo. A family event for all ages, the success of the Flyers Wives Carnival throughout the years will bring fans back for decades to come. To read more about Camp Good Days, visit their website at www.campgooddays.org and to see a complete list of charities Comcast-Spectacor services, visit http://www.comcastspectacorcharities.org.  

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