August 21, 2009
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On Monday, Kimberly Knight will appear before Judge Melinda Morris to discuss a little financial matter. It seems the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association is missing a few bucks – actually, its entire operating budget, almost a million dollars — and Judge Morris would like to ask Kimberly Knight where it is.
Kimberly Knight should have a pretty good idea. From 1999 to 2007, Knight served as the Association’s treasurer.
Those were heady years for the organization. Enrollment was strong, with a high of 1200 boys and girls playing hockey. The league was bringing in enough money to pay for kids who couldn’t afford to play hockey, and start saving for a rink of their own.
By 2007, it looked like the league’s dream might be within reach. Today, it’s closer to folding altogether.
To appreciate what’s at stake here, it helps to understand that the Association started way back in 1951. Its first director, John MacInnes, had played goalie for Michigan and went on to coach Michigan Tech, where he won three NCAA titles and a record 555 games. A true legend – and a good guy.
Many Association alums have gone on to play college hockey, and one, Teddy Speers, once scored a goal for the Detroit Red Wings. But that’s never been the point of the league. The goal has always been to get more kids playing hockey, making them a little healthier and happier, and keeping them out of trouble. If you ask any of the league’s 20,000 alums, including yours truly, you’ll hear just how successful the league has been.
More impressive, to me, is the fact that the league’s always been run entirely by volunteers – people with day jobs and families who still devote tons of time to an often thankless task. I think about my coaches like Roy Bolles, who didn’t even have kids on the team. We’re still in touch. I think about referees like Ken Westerman and Jeff “Tiny” Bourne, who not only got up at 5:30 to make sure we didn’t kill each other — for peanuts — but would take the time between whistles to teach us about the game.
But what I remember most is going over to see the Childs, who ran the league in the seventies, and seeing the piles and piles of jerseys – hundreds of them – in their basement, where Mrs. Childs was sewing the names of the sponsors on the back of every single sweater. You don’t forget that.
When her husband Ross stepped down as the league director, the crowd gave him not one, not two, but three standing ovations. You don’t forget that, either.
What makes non-profit groups so good – the volunteers — is what makes them such easy targets for dark souls like Knight, who did her damnedest to reverse over a half-century of good deeds by pilfering close to a million dollars. She spent it on watches, diamond earrings, and a Cadillac Escalade. They should investigate her husband, too. It’s hard to imagine he had no idea what was going on.
That’s bad enough. But what’s unforgivable is that she took all of it from little boys and girls – many of whom depend on scholarships from the league just to play the game. Even worse, Knight might not pay for it – or very much, anyway. For some reason our system of justice tends to go easy on embezzlers. I have no idea why. If she had robbed a million dollars from our homes, and not our kids, she’d be gone a long time. But Knight is currently negotiating to minimize her jail time – and she might not get any, which is not unusual in Washtenaw County.
Kimberly Knight should be forced to produce every penny of the money she stole from the kids, even if it means selling her home, her land, and her Cadillac Escalade. Better she goes under than the league. And she should do prison time. Real time. Hard time.
Judge Morris, I urge you to do the right thing, and protect eight-year old kids from con artists like Kimberly Knight.
Anything less would be a crime.
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