Q&A With Blue Jackets Foundation Executive Director Katie Matney

Welcome back to our 2020 Columbus Blue Jackets Q&A series. In this series, we are going to talk with different members of the Blue Jackets’ community about hockey, their jobs, how they’re handling things today and much more. Today in part seven, Blue Jackets Foundation Executive Director Katie Matney stops by. We talk about adjusting to the new normal and how they continue to positively impact the community. Then we look ahead to some early plans to celebrate the team’s 20th season.

If there is anything synonymous with the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s the heroic work of the Blue Jackets Foundation. Since the team’s inception into the NHL back in 2000, the Foundation has provided more than $11.4 million to different initiatives throughout the community.

The Foundation’s mission and commitment says it all.

“The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation is dedicated to the health and wellness of children in central Ohio. We dedicate time, resources and financial support to organizations making a difference in the areas of pediatric cancer, reading, fitness through play and the growth and development of amateur hockey.”

Whether it’s through scholarships to high school seniors or grants to local non-profits, the Blue Jackets Foundation continues to make a difference in Columbus. But now, just like many others, they face some unique challenges. Despite those challenges, the Foundation continues to work and find ways to make a difference in the community while providing great opportunities for fans and others to get their hands on some cool memorabilia.

The Foundation’s Executive Director Katie Matney is at the center of making sure everything continues running as smoothly as possible while still meeting and exceeding all goals. She was kind enough to stop by to discuss what the Blue Jackets Foundation is up to and how they are adjusting to the new normal. We began by talking about what her daily routine is now that is she working from home. Considering she has four children and two corgis (!), this is some great time management. Yet, I just want to pet the corgis!

Katie Matney Q&A

A New Normal

“We meet with the Foundation team every Wednesday,” Matney said. “We’re able to work through Microsoft Teams so we can see each other. I’m also able to participate in corporate meetings. The Foundation is also part of a community development team and other members of our team do fan outreach. We are able to meet on Mondays which is great.”

Matney then describes an adjustment her and her team has had to make with social distancing guidelines in place.

“A lot of our work does involve going out into the community. That part has been halted. Our community development team has gone out into schools to do our skills and drills program. We have conversations this time of year with our grant partners. Normally those are face-to-face but everybody has been very understanding and we’re able to have these meetings go either through Team or Zoom or through a conference call. We can still connect with our community in a lot of ways. But we’ve also had to think creatively on how we continue to show up for the Foundation and for our grant partners.”

What is the Foundation Up To?

One of the ways the Blue Jackets Foundation is keeping fans involved is through their online auctions. Most recently, they announced two items would be up for auction to benefit both the YMCA and the Community Shelter Board.

First up was 10 team-signed sticks signed by the Blue Jackets’ forwards. Funds raised for these went to the YMCA. Then they put up 10 team-signed sticks signed by the defensemen with those funds benefiting the Community Shelter Board.

The YMCA had to close due to Covid-19. So the funds here will help the YMCA with crisis-response needs around the community which include shelter/housing, pandemic childcare and more. The Community Shelter Board works to make sure everyone has a place to call home. They focus on homelessness prevention, shelter, street outreach, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing.

What else is the Foundation working on at this point?

“This was the fourth auction we’ve done online to benefit a grant partner,” Matney said. “When we first realized we would be working from home, we (as a team) figured out what the next step to take was. Our community development team asked ourselves how do we show up for our partners who are working with communities that have really been impacted by this change. The Foundation has hosted online auctions with memorabilia and benefited Columbus Recreational Parks, Lutheran Social Services Choices, which is a domestic violence shelter here in Central Ohio. We’ve also raised money to help Children’s Hunger Alliance to help pay for meals and supplies.”

The fans have stepped up in a big way here. That hasn’t been lost on Matney.

“What I really respect about this organization is they value the sport that we all love. But they also make sure that they show up for the community. I’m really proud of the fifth line because they’ve helped raise almost $12,000 through memorabilia and donations. (PA Announcer) Greg Murray also donated his time to the Foundation. I’m just so proud to work with someone like Greg. The fact that Greg has made as many phone calls as he has not only to raise money but to put smiles on may faces during this uncertain time, it’s just made me really proud to do the work that we do.”

Hockey in the Classroom at Home

Another big initiative the Foundation has going is the Hockey in the Classroom at Home Program. This is a great example of executing something in the midst of this pandemic.

“The Hockey in the Classroom at home program provides free educational resources for kids at home to support them in literacy, STEM and nutrition,” Matney said. “The Blue Jackets have worked with many teachers in the classroom and now is our chance to support literacy when kids are at home.”

Teachers and parents get free access to the Future Goals Program. Future Goals includes two online resources: Hockey Scholar – an interactive hockey-themed STEM curriculum for middle-school and elementary-school-aged students and Healthier Me – a program that provides elementary-school-aged students the tools they need to make healthy decisions.

So as you can see, the Foundation continues delivering on their mission to impact the Columbus community in a positive way. While life isn’t normal at this point, they are continuing to find ways to make a true difference. They spend their days looking for more ways to be a shining light in the midst of a lot of darkness.

Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to be champions in the community. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Foundation Collaborates With Other Teams

Matney then talked about something that I though was rather interesting. As part of their work, the Foundation participates with other NHL teams and other organizations to come up with fresh ideas.

“There are teams around the country that are doing new and cool things and we’re learning from them,” Matney said. “So we’re collecting ideas. Every month there is a community relations and foundation call where teams from around the league call in and share best practices on certain topics. Those calls have now been moved to every other week. It’s a really great way to hear what other teams are doing in different cities, how much money they are raising, how they’re mobilizing their players to help and the impact they are making.”

Don’t be surprised to see some of these new ideas come to fruition in the coming weeks and months. Speaking of future ideas…

The 20th Anniversary Season

Recall in our conversation with Todd Sharrock that the team is working on building a historical website for their 20th anniversary season. The Foundation is working on some neat ideas for this special occasion as well.

“We’ve been doing some work to identify partners that we’ve worked with for the past several years so we can celebrate those milestones,” Matney said. “We’ve been looking to find some memorabilia from the first season that we can auction off as a way we can raise money for the Foundation.”

Two of the biggest events the Foundation has are their Golf Outing and the annual Cannonball. Matney admits at this moment, they’re not sure what these will look like given the circumstances. But they are closely monitoring things.

“These are opportunities that we can celebrate the 20th season. They might look a little different than we had planned on six months ago. They will still be impactful as we continue to move forward. In our 20th season, we are excited to announce what our grant slate will be. That’s something I’m currently working on now along with my teammates. We announce that slate in the fall. I don’t see why that would be any different this year. We use that to kick-off (the season) and celebrate all of the great work that’s happening in Central Ohio.”

The Foundation said they will be looking for different memorabilia for the team’s 20th anniversary season. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

In Conclusion

The Foundation is full steam ahead when it comes to making positive things happen in Columbus. Watch out for new things coming in the near future and stay tuned to the Foundation’s social media channels where they’ll keep everyone informed of new auctions and other news.

If you are interested in helping out the Foundation, you can go to their website. It’s bluejackets.com/community/foundation. There you can make a donation or catch up on all things going on within the community.

We sincerely appreciate Matney’s time in talking with us. In Columbus, hockey is important. But helping the community is what it’s all about. The Blue Jackets do this in spades thanks to people like Matney.