A month ago, there was a fair bit of consternation in the PuCKS’ camp.
Ticket sales for PuCKS’ (Promoting Community Through Kids In Sport) fourth annual Sports Heroes Dinner were not going well.
PuCKS had only sold four tables for its fundraising gala held Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre’s banquet room.
The goal was 40.
“It had been three years since our last event in 2009 with Trevor Linden,” PuCKS founder and Connie Klimek said. “Maybe the community had forgotten about us.”
Ticket sales since that worrisome period turned out to be brisk and Klimek described the night as “perfect.”
More than 300 guests and volunteers attended and helped to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 for PuCKS.
The cause is certainly noble. Langley-based PuCKS offers hockey, soccer, cane ball, after-school literacy, and homework clubs to student-athletes who are new to Canada, or are financially in need.
Klimek said all funds raised from this year’s gala will go to maintaining current operations in the PuCKS Sports Division (hockey, soccer, football, and cane ball), and expanding PuCKS’ Lit-Fit Division into other areas in Langley, where more kids in need can benefit.
Past galas have attracted some high-profile guest speakers.
At its inaugural dinner, held in 2007 in Guildford, “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe was the special guest.
Elite Canadian sledge hockey goaltender Paul Rosen appeared in ’08 and in November ’09 at the Langley Events Centre, former Vancouver Canuck Trevor Linden offered up his time to speak.
This year, BC Lions general manager Wally Buono and president and CEO Dennis Skulsky partook in a fireside visit at the end of the evening, which included success stories from PuCKS visitors and sports radio personality Rick Ball handling the MC duties.
Buono talked about his childhood and how he was a newly immigrated Italian, starting with nothing and not speaking the language. He reflected on how closely his story related to the story of the kids involved with PuCKS, many of whom are immigrants from Langley’s Karen community.
Langley’s Ryan Walter, president of the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, shared his stories about coming into the NHL and getting to know Guy Lafleur, being moved to the Vancouver Canucks, and some of the funny conversations he had with then-linemates Pavel Bure and Gino Odjick.
“It had such a homey feel; so positive and inviting,” Klimek said. “Southwest Audio did an amazing job with elegant, warm lighting and great sound. John Gilliat’s amazing guitar playing set the tone: Classy.”
Klimek said Jay Shaw Photography is currently producing the memories which he plans to donate to share with our guests.
Klimek described the community as “solid.”
“They are there for PuCKS. They are there for our kids,” she said.
PuCKS kids and their Trinity Western University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University mentors spoke on how the PuCKS Program has influenced their lives far beyond sport, Klimek said.
For example, Htee Lu Pah, who moved so many with her incredible story at the 2009 gala, has since worked her way to the top 10 of her class of 70 students and has been working at McDonald’s for over a year.
Ron Knight, owner/operator of McDonald’s in Walnut Grove and Port Kells, shared his experience with how PuCKS participants are now dedicated and reliable employees at his restaurants and how they can be counted on to help with “giving back” through McHappy Days every year for the last five years.
Prize winners at the gala were Jenn Walter (Ryan’s wife) who won the West Jet Draw a trip for two anywhere WestJet flies.
The Bradner Farms EGGStravaganze grand prize winner was Greg Noga from Canadian Western Bank, a Third Star Sponsor of the event. He won an Alaskan Airlines round trip for two to the Big Island, Hawaii (donated by Starline Windows) including a seven-night stay at the five-star Mauna Lani Point Resort (donated by Berezan Management Ltd).
Everyone who bought a ticket won a prize.
PuCKS’ fifth annual Sports Heroes Dinner is tentatively set for Wednesday Sept. 25, 2013.
For more on the PuCKS program, visit www.pucksprogram.ca.