Each year, many local families make the choice to become billet families for our players who are from different states or countries. These young men come to Johnstown with no family close by and are in need of people that can be a family to them. They need a place to stay, lots of support, and plenty of food to get them through the season successfully. The billet families take on an awesome responsibility when they decide to take in one or more players. The players and the coaching staff are so grateful for all those who participate in the billeting program, and it seems that each season, there’s always room for one more family willing to open their doors for a 16-20 year old who’s far from home.
As for Melissa Kauffman, a first time billet ‘mom’ in the 2018-19 season, she says that her experience was a great one. Kauffman said that she had “no idea what to expect with a teenager coming into the house.” But, when asked what it was like having an extra person added to the family, she admitted that “at first it can be awkward, because it’s a person you’re not used to having, but gradually they just become part of the family!” Melissa is a mom of two young children, 4 and 7, who also play hockey, and so for them, hosting goalie Carter McPhail in their home during the season was fantastic. The kids found in Carter a role model, and he became like a big brother to them.
Our billet families still tend to keep up with the players they have kept even after their season is over and the young men have moved out of the league. Kauffman says that her family still texts with Carter at least once a week, and that her boys will even ask her when the next time is that they can call him.
Overall, Melissa and her family say that they had a great experience hosting a player in their home. The Kauffman’s advice to those hoping to become a billet family is this: “Don’t change your family life drastically for them, but also understand that they are not exactly like your family. So, help them incorporate their lives into yours.” The last piece of advice they give is to make the player feel at home, and to have fun with the whole process. The billeting life is what you make it!
Many of our billet families decide to sign up again for another season after the first one is over. There are families that have been billeting for almost 5 years, and they love it! Sometimes these families, like the Kauffman’s, make the choice to host more than one player after their first year.
Many of our billet families have stories very similar to the Kauffman’s. They at first may not know what they are getting themselves into, but after they’ve begun, they realize that they’ve gained another lifelong family member. The billeting process is an opportunity for a family to let themselves be opened to experiences that they may not otherwise get to have. It is also a chance for the family and the player alike to learn from each other and gain unique perspectives and insights from someone who comes from a different background or part of the world than themselves.
If you and your family would like to consider billeting for the upcoming 2019-20 season, there’s still time, and we still have room. Billet families, in addition to a great experience hosting a player, receive free season tickets, and a monthly compensation to help with extra costs. For your family, hosting a player could make this year the best one yet!