It’s all about the kids.
This weekend six atom teams battled for outdoor hockey supremacy at Apex Mountain Resort but the real winners were the kids not as fortunate to be able to lace up the blades.
This year the fourth annual B.C. Children’s Hospital Winter Classic Charity Jamboree raised a record $26,462 to bring the total donation figure to in excess of $77,000.
“It really has a lot more meaning for the parents and players than just another hockey tournament, especially on the last day Sunday when we presented the cheque,” said organizer Yannick Lescarbeau, who is from Kelowna. “We briefly talk about the hockey experience and quickly switch to why we’re doing this and that’s where you get the big applause and I think that’s when people get more emotional, I know I do. That’s where I measure the success, that and throughout the weekend hearing parents and hockey players say ‘great job. it’s the experience of a lifetime.’
“That’s great to hear, I think the hockey experience is kind of the reward of those efforts to raise money.”
He was managing the atom team his kids played on in Kelowna in 2014 when Lescarbeau decided to hold what he thought would just be a one-time event.
Growing up in Quebec City and playing plenty of hockey outside, he thought the outdoor rink at Apex would be the perfect spot.
“I remember going to the rink with my stick and my skates on my shoulder and walking a couple of klicks to go to the rink and spending the entire day there until it was dark and coming back home with frozen toes, it was awesome,” he recalled. “A lot of the teams for this tournament come every year from the coast and they don’t get to experience that so you can’t beat it.
“This weekend there was freezing rain, some games there was tons of snow, a little bit of wind, a little bit of darkness, it’s not like a normal rink, not ideal conditions, but that’s what makes it awesome and unique.”
Each participating squad is charged with the task of raising as much money as possible leading up the four-day event.
“It was really contagious,” said Lescarbeau about how quickly the hundreds families involved over the years have gotten on board. “All the teams went crazy about it. Really excited to raise money. They all had their own initiative to raise. It teaches the kids some good life values and responsibility.
“I know my own kids, when we raise money they say: ‘Dad, we raised that much and that means were able to save more kids.’”
Through the season he sends material to the participating teams, including videos of what the money goes to at Children’s Hospital.
“Whenever I have a chance to talk to them (kids) I tell them to just enjoy the moment, play hard and have fun but also to remember how lucky they are,” said Lescarbeau.
Along with the host Kelowna team, also competing was the Penticton Jr. Vees Atom Development squad, Kelowna, SeaFair (Richmond) Burnaby and North Shore Winter clubs and Spokane, Wa.
Penticton won 7-2 in the final over Burnaby after defeating Kelowna 6-1 in the semi. The champs had a two-win, one loss record in round robin play which began Thursday.