The Hockey for Hospice tournament returned for its 27th year and set yet another fundraising record in the process.
The annual tournament was Dec. 27-29 with 125 teams utilizing four arenas. Both boys and girls house league teams from the region ranging in age from five to 14 played games in Amherstburg, Essex, LaSalle and Tecumseh over the three-day period and raised $587,780.29 in the process. The old record was $531,264, set in 2022.
Tim Beaulieu, one of the co-organizers along with Paul Pietraszko and their respective families, said things went well in the 2023 tournament.
“We had about the same amount of teams as last year,” said Beaulieu.
The 125 teams represented just under 2,000 players, he added. All but three of the teams were from Windsor-Essex County.
The tournament began as a skate-a-thon at the former AMA Arena and has grown to what it is today. Beaulieu said players from the early era of the tournament are returning as adults.
“What we’re seeing now is kids who were players in the past are now coaches,” said Beaulieu. “They are now coming in as coaches and their kids are playing. It’s great to see.”
The fundraising total exceeds the previous year on a regular basis, he noted, and while he is nervous annually wondering how the players are going to top themselves, he said they always find a way to do so.
“What we’ve come to learn is that the kids don’t disappoint,” he said. “It’s astonishing what the kids are able to deliver.”
There are roughly 50-60 volunteers that help put the annual Hockey for Hospice tournament together and Beaulieu said everyone put in a lot of effort in order to make the tournament happen.
“It’s a lot of work by a lot of volunteers - hundreds and hundreds of hours,” said Beaulieu.
The appeal of the Hockey for Hospice tournament is that kids get to play hockey and Beaulieu noted they get to assist the Hospice of Windsor-Essex County at the same time.
“I don’t know if anyone in the community hasn’t been touched by Hospice,” said Beaulieu. “It’s a worthwhile cause.”
Education is another key component of the holiday tournament, with players taught every year about what Hospice does and why it is important. Beaulieu said players now can tell others about the role of Hospice.
Nancy Brockenshire, executive director of The Hospice of Windsor-Essex County, said the organization is not fully funded and they want to ensure their services remain free for families who need them. Events like Hockey for Hospice help to make that happen.
“We have to fund 23 beds at $150 per bed, per night,” she said.
Hospice also provided in-home services to 1,245 people over the past year, she added, while 435 people resided in a Hospice residence.
Players make memories and have fun during the tournament but also spread the word about the end-of-life services Hospice offers.
Brockenshire said Hospice appreciates that people give back and that organizers and volunteers put in so much time to present the tournament.
By Ron Giofu