On Friday, March 22, the El Paso Rhinos will begin the defense of their Thorn Cup championship as they open the playoffs at home.  During this special evening, the organization will also host the eleventh annual teddy bear toss in memory of my friend Joni Arnett.

Fans are asked to bring stuffed animals and toss them onto the ice after the Rhinos’ first goal on Friday.  The stuffed animals will be collected by El Paso Police and El Paso Fire Stations and donated to children in crisis.  During Friday's game, there will also be a game-worn teddy bear jersey auction. Fans can bid on the jerseys at the rink before the 10-minute mark of the third period.  Auction winners will collect their jerseys immediately following the game.

Over the years this event has helped countless children, and not only does it commemorate the special individual that Joni was, but also ensures that her memory will live on forever.  Joni tragically lost her life nearly 12 years ago.  She was a former model, UTEP professor, and well-respected member of the community.  She was also involved in many charities throughout her young life, especially ones that involved children.

If you were fortunate enough to know Joni or happened to cross her path, she surely had an impact on your life, as she was a remarkable person.  Fans are encouraged to go to the Rhinos' game on Friday, watch some playoff hockey, and continue to make the Teddy Bear Toss one of the greatest events in El Paso.

More From 600 ESPN El Paso