Young hockey players will get a chance to test their passing skills with members of the Ottawa 67’s, but it will be with salt shakers and bread baskets rather than with hockey pucks.
The OHL junior hockey team and its coaching staff will be the special guests of an upcoming fundraising dinner, Talk Hockey, being held Wednesday, February 20th, at the revitalized Rideau Sports Centre (formerly the Rideau Tennis Club) located in the neighbourhood of Overbrook, at 1 Donald St.
The first-time gala aims to raise $20,000 for after-school sports and recreation programs for underserved children and youth living in Strathcona Heights, home to one of the largest Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods.
The $75-a-plate lasagna dinner is targeting minor hockey players and hockey parents who have an interest in learning more about the sport from the perspective of the Ottawa 67’s.
The dress code is simple: hockey jerseys.
Organizers are working with the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation, which recognizes the importance of keeping kids active. “I think what they’re doing will give an opportunity for some children and youth who haven’t been able to experience recreational activities because of some of the barriers they face,” said Howard Whittaker, the foundation’s executive director.
The evening is being put together by a group of young professionals in their 20s led by Chris Bockstael, a financial planner with ONELIFE Wealth Management. He's recruited several of his friends, including David Gaylord, who works in executive expansion at Shopify; Patrick Champagne, executive assistant to the mayor; and Zach Quevillon, a teacher who’s also heavily involved with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club.
“I never had to think twice about playing sports after school when I was a kid because I was fortunate enough that my parents could fund my activities,” said Bockstael. “We like the idea of trying to offer these kids the same opportunities.”
Some of the sports they’re looking to make available are: basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and dek hockey, which is a special version of ball hockey.
Assisting in an advisory role is Dr. Nalin Bhargava, team dentist for the Ottawa Redblacks, Ottawa Fury and Ottawa 67’s. He’s also a former president of the Ottawa Girls Hockey Association and a gala organizer extraordinaire.
He came up with the idea after realizing that kids from Strathcona Heights could be using the facilities available at the community-minded Rideau Sports Centre, especially with increased accessibility via the new, nearby pedestrian and cyclist bridge spanning the Rideau River.
The Rideau Sports Centre was open to the suggestion, said Bhargava, who next had to look for a young fundraiser to champion the cause. He successfully enlisted Bockstael, who has done volunteer work for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. The dentist and the financial planner play golf together at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Bockstael is also Bhargava’s patient at Southgate Dental.
“We need to inspire the next generation of fundraisers, otherwise we won’t have any,” said Bhargava. “I’m so impressed with these young guys. They’ve proven to be real crackerjacks. They’re keen, they want to give back, they’re organized.”
All funds raised through ticket sales and sponsorship will go directly to the cause. The public can buy tickets or make an online donation at: strathconatigers.ca