About a half-dozen Penn State hockey players were given the opportunity to train with NHL teams at summer developmental camps over the last few weeks.
David Goodwin may not have had quite the same opportunity for development in his sport, but he got to make a trip that gave him development in a much more rewarding way.
For nearly two weeks in early June, the sophomore was in El Salvador on a mission to help underprivileged families.
While there, he helped on a few construction projects and also assisted the workers at an orphanage.
“I just wanted to go down and help out in any way I could,” Goodwin said. “It’s every bit of a third-world country, so I just wanted to go down and help out, give the people a sense of love and know that people do care for them. It’s very lacking in that part of the world.”
Goodwin is now back on campus, and Friday was the last day of three weeks of hockey camps. He’s been enjoying working with the kids where he is most comfortable — on skates. The campers are thrilled to have team members as their teachers. Goodwin, who can picture himself as a teacher or coach down the road, and his teammates are doing their best to set good examples for the boys.
But the effect on the people he met in Central America, in a small, poor nation with the Pacific Ocean on its western coast, was felt much more.
Goodwin was making his third mission trip to that part of the world. In high school he went to Mexico, and two years ago he went to Nicaragua. It was set up through his church back home in St. Louis, with a handful of other people from that area also traveling down there, though most of the arrangements were made by an organization in El Salvador.
He stayed with a family in the capital of San Salvador and commuted each day to a small village not far away, Las Delicias.
He assisted one family build a retaining wall. He also served meals, helped clean up and rebuild a playground and contributed in any way he could at an orphanage, including fixing a roof.
“At least I hope I fixed the roof,” Goodwin joked, admitting his carpentry skills may not necessarily match his puck-handling ability.
The main purpose, however, was just to spend time with the families, and especially with the orphans.
He also worked with a father and son in the building of the wall, which is meant to help deter gang members who roamed the streets of the village.
“There’s such a strong presence of gang violence there,” Goodwin said. “In the village of Las Delicias, it’s basically run by, pretty much controlled by gangs. We’d be working on a house, two or three guys would walk by and I would ask the guy who I was working with, ‘Are those gang members?’ He would say ‘yes.’ They weren’t carrying guns or anything, but the presence of the gangs was very heavily felt.”
The city of San Salvador wasn’t much safer. His house was guarded each night by a man wielding a machete, and he was instructed never to leave the house at night or he would likely be mugged in a matter of minutes.
While Goodwin didn’t see it, there also is violence throughout the region, including in neighboring Nicaragua and Honduras, which has led to the flood of immigrant children into the U.S. He got to understand the desire of the people to make the risky journey.
One of the family members he stayed with paid someone $2,000 to help get him across the U.S. border, but he was caught and sent back to El Salvador.
“I guess I didn’t really realize how common it is for people from that part (of the world),” Goodwin said. “I figured it was too far south for them to go all the way up to Mexico. … It made me realize how lucky I am and not have to worry about sneaking into another country, paying a guy $2,000 and risking my life to do it.”
Still, Goodwin never really felt any fear.
He also got to enjoy the rewards. On the final day of helping the family build the wall, he was approached by one of the family’s younger sons. The boy had not tried to speak any English the entire time Goodwin was there until that moment: “Thank you very much for helping my family,” he said.
“Hearing him say that in English after knowing he struggles with English so much, it was very touching,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin admits he would have jumped at the chance to train with NHL teams like his teammates, who went from coast to coast, from the Washington Capitals to the San Jose Sharks.
“A lot of my buddies are having incredible opportunities to go to these NHL camps all across the country,” Goodwin said. “I was equally fortunate to have this opportunity to help the people of El Salvador.”
Goodwin, who was second on the team last season totaling seven goals and 11 assists, didn’t have access to a sheet of ice, he didn’t pack his skates and he was without a set of weights or any of his training regimen. But this was about a form of enrichment that goes well beyond hockey, and will last so much longer than his playing career.
Goodwin also knows this will not be the last time he does something like this.
“I definitely feel drawn to these types of trips,” Goodwin said. “This one in particular, I think it kind of hit me a little harder and I connected with a little bit better.”