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The Life of Shamrocks House Parents

Thursday, August 10, 2017, 11:11AM
The Shamrocks Residence Hall is a fully restored 15 room Victorian on a large grassy lot in a quiet historic neighborhood.

By James Murphy

Pam and Joe Abbott have been house parents for the Boston Shamrocks unofficially for six years and officially for the last two years at the Shamrocks Residence Hall in North Billerica. Their daughter Kassie Abbott started playing hockey as a goalie for Bob Rotondo in his PuckStoppers Academy ten years ago and over the last ten years, Kassie - now 20 - became a star goaltender for the Shamrocks Under 16 and then Under 19 teams and is now a two-time Division 3 champion with the Plattsburgh Cardinals women's hockey program. Pam and Joe will have 16 girls under their watch this season and couldn't be happier to welcome new players every year.

The Shamrocks Residence Hall is a fully restored 15 room Victorian on a large grassy, shaded lot in a quiet historic district directly across the street from the Fire Department. The house features large, bright rooms, newly updated kitchen, large dining room, quiet study areas, multiple bath rooms, laundry facilities, and a common room with large screen TV.  For those players living at the team's residence hall, travel to and from school, as well as the rink and training facilities, is provided by the Shamrocks.

"When Kass was here, the girls lived far from home and living at the house, there was a bunch of girls and every now and then we'd take a couple of them that would need a little family time," Pam recalled. "So we'd take two, three, bring them to the house and they'd stay for the weekend. We'd bring them apple picking or we'd take them to the amusement park or spooky world. It gave them a little family time and it made them feel better. The parents were appreciative. If they were having a hard time, they'd call me up and say 'listen, could you take so-and-so this weekend because they're really missing home'. So I would just go over to Bob and ask if we could take her and he'd say 'sure' and that's how we started doing it."

As Joe pointed out, these girls aren't just players and students, they're humans and they're maturing girls trying to find their way. The Abbott's are thrilled to be helping them do just that, through both the good and bad times.  "Sometimes it's easy to forget when you see them just as hockey players, that they are kids," Joe pointed out. "When you're whatever miles from home sometimes it's like 'I don't want to be around anybody, I just had a bad game.' So it's nice to be able to walk away and just regroup, not deal with the hockey side of things and just be a kid."

The Abbott's make sure to keep the girls on a strict schedule and as Pam pointed out above, they also make sure the girls take time to breath and have some fun. All of it has amounted to a rewarding experience for both the girls and the Abbott's themselves.

"The growth is the best part," Joe said. "Just the human growth. You're seeing somebody where it's like a seed turning into a flower. It's just amazing!"  And the Abbott's make sure they keep up with that growth and love maintaining relationships with their former housemates from the Shamrocks Residence Hall.

"The lucky thing is that because Kassie still plays college hockey, I get to see a lot of these girls still," Pam said. "They'll either play against her or they'll play here locally. So we go to see them. I still talk to most of the girls from last year. I keep up with what's going on and 'how ya doing?' and 'how's your family' and you just have that. ...they're like your kids. I tell people 'I may have just one child but I also have kids all over the country' and I still even talk to a girl from the Czech Republic."

This connection and the experience former Shamrocks have gained under the Abbott's watch doesn't go unnoticed by the parents.  "The amount of emails and text messages that we got last year at the end of the season when the girls all went home, you kind of get teary-eyed reading them," Pam said. "It's so nice that they saw a difference in them after being reluctant sending them away when they didn't know us."

As Joe pointed out, when girls live at the Shamrocks Residence Hall, they enter a family atmosphere and they leave as family.  "It's not just random people living in a house, it's a family unit that's already there, that has a child and knows what it's like when someone goes away," Joe pointed out.

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