Sports charity scores huge donation for Fort McMurray thanks to iconic hockey equipment brand

Sheldon Oleksyn, executive director of Sport Central, speaks at a major donation announcement in Edmonton on June 17, 2016. Paul Rampersaud/ Global News

A major donation announcement in Edmonton Friday signalled great news for kids in the Fort McMurray area who are eager to take part in sports but don’t have the resources to do so in the wake of last month’s massive wildfire.

On Friday afternoon, Sport Central announced that along with its partner, United Cycle in Edmonton, it would receive over $200,000 worth of hockey equipment from CCM Hockey, helping it take a major stride forward in its Sport for the North Equipment Drive.

Reebok-CCM Hockey’s Dave Ewanyk said as soon as he was contacted by United Cycle, “we knew we had to get involved.”

“We were all captivated by the events that unfolded in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area,” Ewanyk said. “It was a devastation on a scale none of us had ever seen in Alberta.”

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: Federal government commits $300M in disaster recovery funds to Alberta

“They have really stepped up big time,” Sheldon Oleksyn, executive director of Sport Central, said of CCM’s donation, adding the donation drive has exceeded its original goal of $500,000. With about $600,000 worth of equipment already donated, the new goal is now $1 million.

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For 25 years, the Sport Central charity has worked to gather, recycle and redistribute equipment for children who can’t afford to take part in sports.

Along with United Cycle – an independent sporting goods store – the charity came up with the Sport for the North Equipment Drive in order to specifically target the demand for sporting goods in Fort McMurray, which is already reeling as it tries to recover from the catastrophic fire.

“Sport for the North was formed probably a week after the wildfire to collect new and gently-used sports equipment for kids in need in that community, and not just Fort McMurray, but the north in general,” Oleksyn said.

CCM’s donation includes skates, helmets and other protective gear and the company is working out details to offer a 40 per cent discount for Fort McMurray residents on all its products at some retail outlets.

“When people have been affected by life-altering devastation, it is important to do what we can as a community to help them return to normalcy,” Sean Williams, vice president of global marketing and North American sales at CCM Hockey, said in a release. “When we heard that Sport Central was looking for sport equipment donations, we felt it was our duty to help.”

Nick Holden, a St. Albert hockey player with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, was also present at the donation announcement. He said he’s been a longtime supporter of Sport Central and was moved by the wildfire as he knows people in Fort McMurray.

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“For kids to be able to get sports equipment and the opportunity to get stuff from other people… is huge because it kind of is able to take the kids’ mind off of the bigger picture and what’s happening,” he said.

The substantial donation of equipment will be sorted by United Cycle and distributed by Sport Central. Sport Central will also work on its legacy project in Fort McMurray, something it describes as a “sustainable equipment depot providing Fort McMurray and area residents with long-term access to sports gear.”

“(It’s) truly overwhelming. Seven days ago I didn’t even realize Sport Central existed,” Travis Galenzoski, president of Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association said of the donation. “And it’s been a whirlwind ever since.”

Sport Central said while the majority of the equipment it looks for is hockey equipment, it also collects other sporting goods as well.

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