An Ottawa-area tornado relief organization has received a $100,000 donation thanks to a hard-fought campaign by a local peewee hockey team, and the community group says the funds will go towards helping affected families as winter transitions into spring.
The West Carleton Warriors, based in the rural community of Carp, found out on Saturday that they had won Chevrolet’s 2019 Good Deeds Cup for their volunteer and fundraising efforts in the aftermath of a devastating tornado that tore through Kinburn and Dunrobin on Sept. 21, 2018.
Three hundred teams applied for a chance to score the 2019 cup — which recognizes minor hockey teams across Canada that are making a positive impact in their communities — as well as the $100,000 grand prize, which Chevrolet would donate to the winning team’s charity of choice.
The Warriors, selected for first place out of three finalists, told Chevrolet they wanted the pot of cash to go to West Carleton Disaster Relief, a coalition of community groups that formed to help residents and families in Ottawa’s rural west end who were affected by September’s tornado.
In an interview on Monday, Laurie Chauvin, president of the Kinburn Community Association and board member of the disaster relief group, said she was “thrilled” for the Warriors.
Chauvin said the organization anticipates that many affected families will be short on their insurance, saying several farmers still don’t have “full coverage for their barns” and many are paying out of pocket to reconstruct their damaged properties.
She said relief efforts have been “in a bit of a holding pattern” throughout the winter but that the Warriors’ prize money will come in handy as the snow melts and residents resume rebuilding their lives.
“What they need is what we will provide, and now we have the funds to do so,” Chauvin said.
Chauvin said the West Carleton Disaster Relief board will likely have a meeting at the end of March “to find out where everybody is at.”
According to West Carleton Disaster Relief’s website, the coalition had received $371,000 in donations as of Jan. 20, 2019 to help it support survivors and address “critical issues” in the area. About $129,500 of that has been disbursed to 141 affected families in sums between $500 and $10,500, the website says.
‘It was such an emotional moment’
The Warriors had expected to learn who won the Good Deeds Cup through an intermission announcement during Saturday’s NHL games. Instead, they were surprised with the news earlier in the day during a Chevrolet-organized celebration at Dow’s Lake, where the team went skating on Saturday morning.
Shelley Welsh, whose son plays on the peewee team, said the Warriors’ head coach, Sean Lecuyer, tipped the parents off on the ride into town (the kids were on a separate bus) and then swore them to secrecy.
“Our coach got on and he said: ‘Good morning, everyone. I was going to tell you we lost, but we didn’t,'” Welsh recounted on Monday. “We all cried. It was just amazing. We were cheering and he said: ‘OK, be quiet now; the kids don’t know.'”
Once they were skating on the lake downtown, Lecuyer pointed out the large trophy, and the kids went “flying” towards it, Welsh said. The young athletes and volunteers didn’t realize they’d won until they saw their name on the cup, she said.
“It was just such an emotional moment … a culmination of everyone’s efforts, of the kids’ good deeds,” Welsh said. “And the biggest thing that I felt, personally, was: ‘Wow, what we can do with this money now to make such a big difference.’
“There’s so much to do. The boys just want to keep it going.”
‘It wasn’t just for a contest’
Many of the Warriors were at the Carp Fair on the Friday afternoon when the EF-3 tornado hit the area. After seeing the damage and finding out friends and schoolmates had lost their homes, the boys went back to the fair the next day and raised more than $4,000 for those in need.
The Warriors also volunteered at a Christmas dinner put on for approximately 200 affected residents in December. In announcing the team’s victory on its website, Chevrolet called the players’ actions and commitment “truly inspiring.”
Lecuyer and Welsh said they want Ottawans to know that the young hockey players have no plans to pack it in after winning the Good Deeds Cup.
“This is something they intend to continue with. It wasn’t just for a contest,” Lecuyer said. “I want people to understand these kids actually care about their friends.”
The team has planned a spring cleanup in Dunrobin to recover people’s belongings and clean up debris, tentatively scheduled for May 25. There may even be more projects beyond that, but those plans haven’t been set in stone yet, Welsh and Lecuyer said.
WATCH: Ottawa-area community waits to rebuild after Tornado
In an interview on Monday, Lecuyer also expressed his appreciation for the boys’ parents, saying many of them did “a lot of hard work” behind the scenes to help the team during the contest.
“I was just relieved to be able to tell them it all paid off,” he said.
The Warriors’ coach said battling for and winning the Good Deeds Cup has improved the boys’ confidence.
“They feel important. They know they can go back to school and tell their friends they’re trying to do everything they can to help them out,” he said.
“They’re walking differently … they’ve been playing better on the ice, which is fantastic… I can’t describe it. These kids, they’re different from the start of the year.”
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