For a charitable group looking to get the word out and reach a good chunk of the community, partnering with the Elmira Sugar Kings seems like an ideal place to start. That fact was not lost on Elmira resident Nancy Zajac, who last year collaborated with the team on an ambitious branch of the Teens for Jeans campaign. This year she hopes the event will explode and provide even more much-needed denim to the region’s locals who are in need.“Last year I came up with the idea near the end of the campaign and the Sugar Kings jumped on it and they were so great. We did a night with the Sugar Kings where we told the fans that were coming to the game, ‘bring jeans,’” Zajac said.
The campaign started six years ago when clothing brand Aeropostale, Zajac’s employer, partnered with DoSomething.org, a non-profit geared towards helping teens. Aeropostale’s Teens for Jeans campaign asks customers to drop off their unwanted pairs at various store locations so they may be donated to local charities.
In January 2011 the local Teens for Jeans Campaign, run out of the Aeropostale store in Conestoga Mall, collected more than 800 pairs of jeans but the numbers dropped significantly last year and that’s when Wajac decided to reach out to the local hockey team in her home town. She approached Sugar Kings GM Paul Jennings with the idea and was surprised by his excitement to jump on board.
Zajac and volunteers asked the Kings to spread the word and stood outside the doors of the Dan Snyder Arena as fans came in to watch the Kings play the Waterloo Siskins, collecting bags of denim. The team was also a big contributor, too.
“The teams brought in their jeans from players, their families and members of the league. They were so supportive and they were so proud to walk up to us and give us bags of jeans,” Zajac said.
More than 300 pairs were collected that night, said Elmira’s Emily Jordan, Zajac’s co-worker and a volunteer with the project.
The Kings also reached out to their on-ice rivals the Siskins, who agreed to host the denim-collecting volunteers in Waterloo.
The Teens for Jeans campaign got two collections out of the effort last year, collecting a total of 1,001 pairs over the entire campaign, an all-time high, Zajac said. This year they have seven games to go to and hope to collect a total of 1,200 pairs. Teens for Jeans representatives will be at two home games in Elmira starting this Sunday at the Dan Snyder Arena and will be back in Elmira on February 3. They will also set up at two home games each for the Waterloo Siskins and the Kitchener Dutchmen, who have joined the ranks this year.
Zajac said the outpouring of support does not surprise her given what she describes as the Elmira community’s inclination towards supporting good causes.
“It’s the community feel, especially in Elmira. We help each other out. The charities that we are giving to, they’ve helped even me: I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been there and they helped me out which is very nice to give back to them in a way,” said volunteer and Elmira resident Rebecca Wiersma.
Woolwich Community Services are on the top of the list for charities that will receive the donated denim this year. Other charities that have received donations over the years include ROOF, Mary’s Place and the House of Friendship in Kitchener.