The Barons Buddies Program utilizes an existing relationship with Special Olympics Oklahoma, a community partner of the Oklahoma City Barons. The Barons are active members of the community, but have three season-long commitments to different community partners within the Oklahoma City metro area. While working with every member of the community is important, partnering with three allows the Barons to commit their personnel and resources to maximize the impact for everyone.
What began as a “we should do that” type of moment in the summer of 2011 has turned into one of the most memorable and moving activities between a sports franchise and community partner in Oklahoma City. The Barons Buddies Program pairs members of the Oklahoma City Barons hockey team with select athletes and their families from Special Olympics Oklahoma. The season-long activity includes a tour of the Barons locker room, a bowling activity, a hockey game and an end of season pizza party.
Each member of the Barons team is paired with a Special Olympics athlete via an application process. The first event is at the home of the Barons, the Cox Convention Center. It is an opportunity for each player to get to know the athlete and vice versa in a setting that allowed for interaction as well as some one-on-one time. Each athlete gets a tour of the locker room.
Event number two pits the Barons and their Buddies in a bowling event. At this event, each athlete earns more one-on-one interaction with their player, a t-shirt with their player’s name on it and a ticket to the upcoming game celebrating Special Olympics Oklahoma.
One night each season, the Barons wear one-of-a-kind jerseys featuring the Special Olympics Oklahoma logo. The jerseys were available for bids following the game. As partners in the event, all proceeds from the auction are donated to Special Olympics Oklahoma.
Response from the Special Olympics community has been phenomenal and the impact the program has had on both sets of athletes has been immeasurable. Many of the athletes and families weren’t hockey fans before, have become hockey fans since the implementation of the program.