Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Carlos Gomez
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) this week spoke on the Senate floor in recognition of Carlos Gomez, a relentless advocate for disadvantaged youth hockey programs in Alaska and President of the Scotty Gomez Foundation. Carlos was honored as part of Senator Sullivan’s “Alaskan of the Week” series.
TRIBUTE TO CARLOS GOMEZ
Mr. President, one of the things I enjoy doing in my duties in the Senate is to come down each week to recognize somebody special in my State--somebody who has made a difference for their community, somebody who might not get the attention that people get in the press or in other areas but someone who has really made an impact. I like to call that person our Alaskan of the Week.
Right now what has been happening in Alaska is a very special time. Our State, in many ways, is shrouded with myth and mystique. We certainly have, I believe, the most beautiful State in the country. There is a lot of excitement that happens, a lot of special things. Just last week, we had 60 mushers who were being pulled by dog teams, dozens of dogs--these great athletes, as we call them--nearly 1,000 miles through some of the harshest landscapes and some of the harshest climates. We just finished the Iditarod, the last great race. We want to encourage people watching on TV and people in the Galleries to come on up to Alaska. You will love it. It will be the trip of a lifetime. Come see the Iditarod next year, the last great race. We just finished that.
It is a great time to be in Alaska. It is still winter, of course. It is time to ski and for snow machines. It is still cold, and there is lots of snow, but the sun is now coming out high in the sky. Of course, in Alaska, there is hockey. We love hockey. We all know it is a tough and competitive sport, but it certainly fits into the ethos of my State. All across the State, kids and adults play hockey--boys, girls, men, and women, in indoor and outdoor rinks, ponds, and lakes--and skate up and take to the ice.
However, as many parents who are involved in hockey know, gear can be very expensive. Actually, hockey can be very expensive. Many kids and adults can miss out on this great, great sport--a great sport in my State--because of the cost.
I would like to introduce you to Anchorage resident Carlos Gomez, who is our Alaskan of the Week. He has dedicated an extraordinary amount of his time and his life to try to make sure that all kids in my State--boys and girls from all walks of life--get to play hockey, like so many others do in Alaska, no matter if they can afford it or not.
Let me tell you about Mr. Carlos Gomez, because he is not one to brag about himself. Like most Alaskans of the Week, he is an unsung hero, doing so much for the community. His impact on hockey--particularly, for the youth of Alaska--is remarkable. In many ways, his story is truly a classic story of the American dream.
Carlos was born in California. When he was 10, he and his brother went to live with an aunt in San Diego. His wife Dalia was born in Colombia and then moved to Alaska, also with an aunt, when she was just 7 years old. Carlos received a scholarship from the University of California San Diego but had to drop out and cut his studies short because the strain of both going to school and providing for his family and contributing enough for his family was very difficult.
He ended up in Alaska in 1972 to work as an ironworker, where he helped to build our State. He built the Alaska pipeline during that time. It was a huge and exciting time in the State. He met his wife Dalia, as I mentioned, and they settled down in a modest home in Airport Heights, AK, and began to raise a family.
They had three wonderful kids. His daughters are Monica and Natalie, and his son is Scott. All of them are great, bright kids. One of them, Scott, who we in Alaska simply call Scotty--and I will get to that--had amazing athletic talents. When Scotty was just 4 years old, Carlos took him to his first hockey game. Scotty wanted to try it himself. Soon the young boy was hooked and wanted to play hockey as often as he could, and he was good. The problem was that although they weren't poor as a family, they didn't have the extra money for all the equipment and the expense that hockey requires. The Anchorage Boys & Girls Club had a program that loaned out hockey equipment and hockey gear. They helped to utilize that. As Scotty grew, he needed more equipment, and he stayed focused on hockey. Soon Carlos, our Alaskan of the Week, became so involved in youth hockey and had such a heart for the youth who wanted to play hockey in Alaska but had difficulty affording it that he became this master fundraiser throughout Alaska for the sport, not only for his son but for all the kids in the community who wanted to play hockey across the city.
Fast forward to 1998, and Scotty, his son, a 4-year-old playing hockey on ponds in Anchorage, is selected by the New Jersey Devils as their first-round draft choice--the first Latino ever drafted to be in the first round of the NHL draft. Scotty went on to become an all-star, Stanley Cup winner and a recipient of the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's rookie of the year--all in his first NHL season. That is not bad for a little kid from Anchorage--all before he turned 21. He went on to win another Stanley Cup and later played for the New York Rangers, the Montreal Canadiens, the San Jose Sharks, the Florida Panthers, and the St. Louis Blues. He even chose to return home to Anchorage during the NHL lockout to play briefly for our very own Alaska Aces.
As you can imagine, Scotty is quite popular and well-known in Anchorage. He is admired by so many, and his father is as well. He could have stopped championing, as he has done for so many years, the sport of hockey at any point along the way, but what he did was that he kept doing this. He kept working. He kept encouraging young kids in Alaska to get on the ice to achieve their goals, just like his son did.
So Carlos, Scotty, and the rest of the family set up the Scotty Gomez Foundation, which is devoted to that cause, and Carlos Gomez is still running it today. There are more kids like Scotty out there, Carlos said, and ``we're going to give that kid an opportunity,'' like my son had.
The foundation has done so much for youth hockey in Alaska. Thousands of kids across the State have access to gear and the ability to play this great sport that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford. Around Anchorage's rinks, you will find the dark blue and gold gear--just like our Alaska flag--with a ram. It is the Gomez ram, and it helps kids, no matter their backgrounds or experience, get on the ice and play this great sport.
The foundation has put money into rehabbing rinks, like the one in East Anchorage, which is the neighborhood outdoor rink where Scotty learned to play hockey. When the Anchorage School District dropped the girls' high school hockey in the spring of 2013, the Scotty Gomez Foundation, under Carlos's leadership, stepped up, picked up the sport for 3 years, and redeveloped it into cooperatives across Anchorage's eight public high schools. Girls' hockey in Anchorage is alive today because of Carlos Gomez and his family. Also, in his never forgetting the generosity given to Scotty in his start in hockey, the foundation sponsors youth hockey events and grants for the Boys & Girls Club of Anchorage. That is really giving back to the community.
One of the Scotty Gomez Foundation's biggest events every year is the Last Frontier Pond Hockey Classic, which is organized by Carlos and his partner, Mike Davenport, in Big Lake. The event took place just two weekends ago, and it was quite an event. More than 600 hockey players showed up--kids, lawyers, doctors, slope workers, former pro and college players--men and women. Counting everybody, more than 1,000 people, from all walks of life, went to the event to raise money for youth hockey in Alaska.
It is amazing what one family can do to touch so many, led by Mr. Carlos Gomez. As Scotty said, ``It was my father's dream to give back. This is all him. He always just wants to help others.''
If you are a kid in Alaska who wants to play hockey, Carlos Gomez will egg you on and make sure nothing, especially the cost of equipment, will stop you.
Scotty said, “When I was growing up, he was like a father to all of the neighborhood kids who needed one. My dad's a true hero.”
I thank Mr. Carlos Gomez for all he has done for Alaska's youth and youth hockey throughout our great State. We are honored to call him our Alaskan of the Week.
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