SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Senior captain Josh Kosack of the Union College men’s hockey team announced that the second annual Kozi’s Kids holiday fundraiser raised almost $45,000 to benefit local Schenectady children.

“The past two months have been a whirlwind,” said Kosack. “When I began planning this project with [C.O.C.O.A. House Executive Director] Will [Rivas], we were uncertain how much money we would be able to raise. I want to say a special thank you to everyone who has donated and supported Kozi’s Kids. The outreach from the community has been extremely special and we are so thankful for all the support.”

Kozi’s Kids was founded three years ago by Kosack in an effort to give children from C.O.C.O.A. (Children of our Community Open to Achievement) House the opportunity to attend Union men’s hockey games and learn about life as a college student-athlete. The non-profit after-school center for local Schenectady youth is dedicated to providing a safe place for inner-city youth, where they can learn valuable life skills, academic enrichment, and mentorship.  

When the pandemic forced Kozi’s Kids to pivot its focus last year, Kosack initiated a holiday fundraising campaign that far exceeded his modest goal and raised over $5,000. The money was used for laptops and iPads for C.O.C.O.A. House that assisted the after-school program’s participants with online learning, as well as for Christmas presents distributed to kids in the Tri-City area.

After the success of last year’s fundraiser, Kosack set his sights even higher with a lofty goal of $20,000 after a generous donor agreed to match up to $10,000. The goal was to assist C.O.C.O.A. House with their annual Christmas toy drive to benefit kids in the Capital Region while also funding a Kozi’s Kids Lounge in the building next door.

Thanks to the generosity of the community, Kosack shattered the original goal.

“Josh’s commitment is going to pay dividends for the next 20-25 years of our program,” said Rivas. “He’s made a committed effort to develop the Kozi’s Kids Lounge and the tech center that we’re building in the new Teen Empowerment Center.”

Kosack joined Rivas to help shop for Christmas presents for the children as well as deliver $10,000 worth of gifts over the course of two days. Rivas estimates the cost of the Kozi’s Kids Lounge to be approximately $10,000, with the remaining $25,000 donated as unrestricted funds to the non-profit to pursue other projects to benefit the children. C.O.C.O.A. House has continued to expand its neighborhood footprint, recently purchasing a third location with the goal of creating a community green space.

“Working with Josh over the last two and a half years has been nothing short of inspirational,” Rivas said. “He invited the youth from our community to hockey games to provide an experience they may not have had before. Not only has he invited them to hockey games, but he made it his mission during a pandemic to volunteer with the program and spend time with the kids: watching movies, doing homework, and playing games.”

Renovations are still being done on the building the Kozi’s Kids Lounge will reside in. The work is projected to be completed in time for the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year.

In two years, Kosack has raised over $50,000 for C.O.C.O.A. House.

C.O.C.O.A. House was founded in 1996 by Union student and Schenectady native Rachel Graham ’98 in an effort to create a program that promoted academic success and opportunities for at-risk youth. Starting in the basement of a local church, C.O.C.O.A. House currently operates out of its own facility in Hamilton Hills.

“Even once he goes on to work after graduation, he will visit,” Rivas added. “He is always going to have a place in our hearts and our program.”