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Eagle Scout combines service project with hockey

Isaac Oleson is pictured at Bielenberg Sports Center where he is organizing a project to collect hockey equipment. Donations will be used with the Herb Brooks Foundation’s Rink Rats program. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)

Woodbury Boy Scout Isaac Oleson has played hockey for most of his young life.

The 15-year-old rediscovered his love for the sport when he quit to play basketball for a few years in elementary school.

"After two years of playing basketball, I moved back to hockey," he recalled. "Then I started loving hockey again."

As a prospective Eagle Scout, Oleson is now coupling his love of hockey with his upcoming service project. Oleson is pursuing a project to help grow the sport of hockey in areas where the opportunities to play are limited. He is working to help Rink Rats, a program from the Herb Brooks Foundation that is held in the inner-city neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Oleson's mission is to help bring the program the equipment it needs.

"They offer free hockey to kids that don't have access to ice time, whether it's because of ice time, the lack of enough people to make a team, or just because they can't afford it," said Oleson, who is a Scout with Troop 5 based out of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Woodbury.

He saw the program being advertised one day and was curious enough to look into it. After learning more, he knew it would make a great Eagle Scout project.

"This is perfect for me," Oleson recalled. "I love hockey. I want to do this Eagle project. This is perfect."

Oleson is organizing a hockey equipment donation drive that is being held through April 9 inside the Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury. Equipment needed for the drive includes new and used helmets, skates, elbow pads, sticks, shin guards and gloves.

A box will be left inside the arena for donations, and Oleson plans to be on-site during portions of the drive to help drum up interest.

When he decided to pursue the project, Oleson had no problem convincing the Herb Brooks Foundation to be a partner in the equipment drive. Rink Rats has grown from exclusively being located in Minneapolis to including St. Paul in 2014, and program director Kalli Funk said donations are needed to help the program operate.

"We're always looking to expand the program," she said. "It's always nice to have equipment on-hand."

Soon, Oleson said he hopes to extend his equipment drive to other ice arenas in the area.