Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:24PM - 279 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – The growing Building Bridges initiative received a major donation for a new youth outreach program Tuesday.

J.J. Murphy of the GOALS Foundation announced that a portion of a $15,000 grant for the families of veterans and emergency service providers will fund 10 hockey and figure skating scholarships through Building Bridges for area children in need.

Murphy, a former city administrator who now works in New Mexico, said his foundation would pay for ice time, equipment and instruction for five area children wishing to learn to play hockey and five wishing to learn to figure skate over a one-year period.

We are going to sponsor 10 children, whatever that costs, Murphy said. We're going to partner with the Penguins and some other organizations to rent this rink. It will be equipment, figure skates, they'll have access to all that.

Murphy said children would be selected for the program by the Rev. Shawn Walker and the Rev. Michael Brewster of Building Bridges and by Mayor Leighton.

The $15,000 donation also will fund a free skate for family members of police officers, firefighters and active or retired military personnel, starting at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at the Penguins Coal Street Complex in Wilkes-Barre, and $100 grants to pay for ice time, also for the children of police officers, firefighters and members of the military.

Money for the program was raised by GOALS and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in March at the Hockey for Heroes charity ice hockey game, which pit Wilkes-Barre area police, fire and military members against their counterparts from Binghamton, N.Y.

Leighton said the program fits well with Building Bridges' purpose of identifying and combating factors contributing to youth violence in the Wilkes-Barre area.

The main concern of the adults of the children that participated was, what do we do in the winter, Leighton said. How do we get the children off the streets, involved with activities?

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