On Saturday, students gathered for Western’s fifth annual Hockey Helps the Homeless event. A one-day hockey tournament, the contest drew 80 participants spread across eight teams this year.
As of Sunday afternoon, the organization raised $28,429.97 for Youth Opportunities Unlimited — a London-based charity designed to help homeless youth aged 16 to 30.
YOU provides a place to stay for those who don’t have a home, offers employment in their local café and even provides health and dental care, among many other benefits. According to the company website, the non-profit charity regularly services over 3,600 people from the London and Strathroy area.
In order to play in the tournament, each participant is required to make a minimum $250 donation for which they receive a full day of hockey, a team jersey and socks.
Vikita Patel, one of the chairs of the event, explained that players in the past have gone above and beyond the minimum donation — sometimes over $1000.
The day provides a fun way to give back to the community and get back on the ice. An added bonus for the participants is the ability to construct their own teams and pick colours beforehand. According to Patel, participants are usually quite excited to see the team uniforms waiting for them at the rink.
“They're really nice jerseys, they look identical to like the NHL ones, which the players love,” said Patel.
Of course, the focus of the day is still to aid the charity. Patel, and the two other chairs of the event: Katie Kechum and Mathanky Jeyakumar, do their best to integrate youth from the YOU program.
In fact, the YOU program assists the event by catering lunch for all of the players.
Members of the YOU community also have a chance to meet the players during the day as a locker room speech is integrated into the tournament.
“We bring a few youth from YOU and they come around locker rooms and they give a little talk about their experience at the charity and how that's helped them,” explained Patel. “They thank the players for coming out, just so the players can see the impact of the donations that they're making. It really helps them realize the difference they're making in the community, so that's nice.”
Since its inception in 2015, the event has continued to grow in size. And for Patel, who has volunteered at the event every year, it has been remarkable to see the growth.
“During the years I've been continuing [to volunteer] and it was nice to see the way that the tournament has progressed so far,” said Patel.
“I've seen a lot of variety of students participating. We're trying to expand and get graduate students to come out. A lot of our previous players were in undergrad and then they are now in graduate studies so they want to continue on so we have a nice pool of players to come out to play.”
Progression can also be seen in the amount of donations the organizers have managed to collect. In total, with this year’s donations, Western’s Hockey Helps the Homeless has raised just over $110,000 for YOU over the last five years.