The OPP and Sault Ste. Marie police put their “sticks up” at John Rhodes Community Centre on Wednesday afternoon to give kids who can’t afford to play hockey an opportunity to pick a stick up. This event – a three-on-three fun day – was aimed at both gathering gently used hockey equipment and raising funds to assist those in need with paying fees to play organized sports.
Players, aged 8-11, donated a piece of used hockey equipment and $50 to participate in the day’s activities.
Sault Ste. Marie Police Cst. Troy Miller is one of the brains behind this initiative. He said the idea to do this came to fruition after a few community officers that work for the different services who all are involved in hockey wanted to do something to help kids who can’t afford to play the sport.
“So we came up with this brainstorm to have a three-on-three fun day and all proceeds stay here in the Sault to help pay for kids who can’t afford to play,” he continued.
Miller said both his and other officers’ experiences in at-risk neighbourhoods contributed to this idea. He said he thinks a lot of children in these neighbourhoods are missing out because of how expensive it is to play the game.
“Not only the fees to play the game, but the equipment itself is quite expensive,” he said. “There’s many kids within the city that I’ve seen, working in at-risk neighbourhoods, that can’t afford to play. And the other resource officers who are a part of this have also experienced that and that’s the reason we’re here.”
Hudson, now 11, has been playing hockey since he was four-years-old. He now plays for the AAA 07 Greyhounds Since everyone in his family plays hockey, he used to receiving hand-me-down equipment as the middle child. He knows other children aren’t so lucky.
“I think it’s important (to donate equipment) because hockey’s such a great sport and it’s really nice that everybody can play it, so it’s a nice game,” he told SaultOnline. “(The equipment) can be really expensive, especially for the families that are not as wealthy as others. And it’s just a really nice game to play.”
Dawn Boissoneau has been a hockey mom for the past 14 years. She said she knows the struggle of paying for brand new equipment.
“I have three children that play hockey – and being a single mom – I for sure do. From sticks to skates, everything,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’ve known a couple of families that have had to step down from playing a sport which they love (due to cost), and it’s sad to see.”
Boissoneau said she thinks events like this are a great opportunity for everyone involved.
“It’s just amazing. Every kid that’s here is smiling from ear-to-ear, they’re having so much fun playing with friends that they haven’t seen in a while. It’s just a great opportunity for anybody and everybody.”
Miller said he thinks it’s important to give back to the community in as many ways as possible.
“The reality is that officers with both services are giving back to the community all the time,” he said. “It’s not just coaching hockey, it’s all different sports, it’s other civic matters that we participate in off-duty, and we’re a part of this community, and being part of this community and being professionals and leaders in this community, I think we’re obligated to also try and make it better and that’s what we’re doing.”