Michael Garnett is used to stopping pucks. The former pro hockey goalie played in the Western Hockey League, National Hockey League and Kontinental Hockey League over a nearly two-decades-long career.
Now after hanging up the pads and skates and retiring from hockey, he and his wife Rebecca Rider are helping those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
They help people wanting to flee Ukraine and get them into mainly Poland, where they arrange flights and take care of logistics to get them to Canada.
“We got in touch with a group in Poland that provides transportation, as it’s a huge issue, so we rented a van and shuttled refugees from the border to train stations and humanitarian centres.”
Garnett uses his charity organization Help From Canada to assist refugees. His family is Ukrainian, another reason why he wanted to reach out and help in whatever way he could.
“Seeing rockets, bombs and gunfire in Ukraine and Kyiv, places I’ve been before, places I’ve played hockey before, it absolutely buckled me. We started a charity for this cause from scratch.”
They applied for charity status on July 7 and by the end of August, they were approved.
Once those back home heard of the work the Garnetts were doing, they wanted to help with funds for goods, necessities food, etc.
So, far they have helped roughly 200 Ukrainians start their lives in Canada.
“You go over there and hear the air raid sirens and see some of the damage and be able to relate a little bit with these people when they come over. Having been there experiencing that, a little taste, you can see the relief in them they get out.”
He says his hockey career has allowed him to volunteer full-time. Additionally, he speaks Russian, which helps a lot when aiding Ukrainians.
“It was really emotional, but really rewarding, seeing that moving people and speaking some Russian, I was able to make some sort of difference.
Garnett adds that the demand for help isn’t stopping and likely won’t any time soon. He and Rebecca will continue to help for as long as needed.
Russia announced its invasion of Ukraine in February.
The support from Saskatoon and Saskatchewan has been incredible to this point.
“Need help, funds to get airline tickets for people to come to Canada, they have their visa and hosts in Canada, they are just waiting for a plane ticket,” Garnett said.
“We are moving forward and bringing as many people here as we can. The need for help has got worse over the recent weeks and months. Europe is taking the brunt of this as they have taken in refugees. They have host families in Canada, the biggest hurdle right now is just plane tickets.”
Garnett says any donations can be sent to HelpFromCanada.org.