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RETIRED HOCKEY DAD'S DONATION DRIVE BRINGS IN HUNDREDS OF BAGS OF EQUIPMENT FOR FIRST NATIONS YOUTH

As Canadians, not only do we cherish our great game of hockey, but we feel fortunate and humbled to be able to play the game. Unfortunately, however, as great as our game is, it's not exactly accessible to everyone.

If you're a hockey parent, you know the type of financial burden it can put on your family if one or more of your children plays the game. From league fees to equipment purchases to paying for travel for tournaments, it is not exactly inexpensive, which is why many children are on the outside looking in, but in particular, many First Nations youth.

That's why Graham McWaters, a retired hockey dad, decided to team up with an organization called "Their Opportunity" in an attempt to collect as much new and used hockey gear as they possibly could for Indigenous youth as young as 4 years old and well into their teen years to help provide them with a chance to play hockey too.

"We take all the hard goods, from helmets right down to the skates," McWaters said prior to Saturday's donation drive, in Kitchener, Ontario. "We take goalie equipment and [hockey] bags."

The concept that McWaters helped turn into a reality originated from a conversation he had with another hockey parent, who was attempting to repair a helmet for another young player - though the helmet was short a face shield of any kind.

Upon entering the arena, McWaters noticed something that urged him to exchange numbers with other parents and begin organizing the equipment drive, beginning with his son's hockey club, who collected 8 bags worth of equipment for Beausoleil First Nation in Midland.

"When I walked inside the rink, I saw other children waiting to get into their dressing room with plastic bags, small duffel bags, and small overnight bags. Some of them were carrying two or three bags with their [hockey] equipment," he told CBC news.

According to McWaters, the drive has been a massive success, growing in popularity year over year. In 2019, the drive yielded 500 bags full of hockey gear for 25 First Nations communities in need across Ontario.

This year's drive, considering the presence of COVID-19, was also a massive success, as McWaters and company received between three and four hundred bags of gear for Indigenous youth across the province. Their Opportunity's Mitchell Avis (who is also a scout for the Owen Sound Attack) took to Twitter on Saturday to share the news with the Twitterverse, thanking everyone for their efforts.

"No photo will do it justice, but WOW!" he began. "What wonderful support from the RoW. We don't have a definitive tally but believe you donated 300-400 bags of hockey equipment for First Nations youth!! Plus goalie gear!

Your generosity will help so many First Nations youth! THANK YOU 🙏"



What a good, positive story focused around the greater hockey community. All too often, we really do take for granted how fortunate we are to live in such an amazing country that affords us so many opportunities. It's really encouraging to see people give back to help give others who are maybe less fortunate an opportunity to take part in our great game of hockey too, and grow the community in that way.

If you count yourself among those who have been more privileged than most, or even if you have some unused equipment laying around, I would urge you to reach out to any local hockey programs in your area that take donations and offer up what you have so that others can assemble what they might need to enjoy Canada's greatest pastime too. It's the Canadian thing to do!


MIKE ARMENTI
NOVEMBER 22, 2020  (9H10)
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