PORTUGAL COVE-ST. PHILIP’S, N.L. — At first glance, Todd Churchill’s backyard hockey rink could be mistaken for the location of the National Hockey League’s next outdoor game.
Although smaller than an NHL rink, it is perfectly proportioned.
“It’s a quarter-sized NHL rink, with lines and logos and face-off circles,” says Churchill, who single-handedly created the rink in yard.
An engineer by profession, Churchill is modest, but proud, of his achievement — even if maintaining it often means losing sleep.
He doesn’t play hockey and hardly ever watches it on television.
So, why undertake a construction project that’s cost him $15,000 of his own money and roughly 160 hours per winter?
His son, Carter, was born prematurely in 2011. Carter was later diagnosed as being deaf and having cerebral palsy, a permanent neurological disorder that impairs physical coordination.
“I took this on in 2012 as a way to fund raise and raise awareness of some charities that are associated with my son and his conditions.”
By renting out his rink for games and tournaments, and donating the proceeds to four charities, Churchill’s idea has taken flight.
“My initial goal the first year was to raise $7,000,” he said. “Since then, I’ve raised over $211,000… It’s been amazing.”
The revenue helps pay for Carter’s participation in sledge hockey — a variation of hockey that allows players with physical disabilities to play on sleds mounted on blades — and other programs like therapeutic horse riding.
Kirk Leach, of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador, says many others also reap the benefits of Churchill’s rink.
“We wouldn’t be able to do our programs without the support of the rink project and Todd Churchill,” said Leach. “Things we do here, like bocce, wheelchair basketball, swimming, music therapy, our camp.”
Back at the rink, Churchill stretches a hose across the lawn and onto the ice.
“It’s all about keeping your hose outta what you’re doing,” he explained.
Churchill now has 50 corporate sponsors and he’s always looking for more.
“I say to my wife, my ultimate goal, my ultimate life goal, is to raise $1 million. And right now, I’m closing in on a-quarter of the way to that goal.
It’s gonna be a very hard goal, obviously, but, that’s what goals are for.”
Another short-term goal is almost a reality: a family camp, planned for this summer by the Cerebral Palsy Association — a group headed by Churchill’s wife, Kimberly.
“It’s something that… we had as a dream before and now we can make that dream into a reality.”
Churchill doesn’t consider himself a hero.
Because his tireless efforts bring joy to both the able-bodied and those with special needs, Todd Churchill is this week’s “Everyday Hero”.
WHAT MAKES AN EVERYDAY HERO?
There are many people trying to make a difference who rarely receive the media attention they deserve. Everyday Hero is our attempt to provide better balance in our newscast. We profile Canadians who don’t go looking for attention, but deserve it. People who through their ideas, efforts and dedication are making a difference in the lives of others.
If you know of an Everyday Hero whose story we should tell, share the information with us by emailing email@example.com