It might have been dark, windy, and 20 below zero outside that Saturday night, but it couldn’t have been warmer inside Langbank’s former curling rink.
Hundreds of people filled the room, almost all with a beer in hand, and the chatter and laughter only added to the warmth.
As the scent of perfectly done prime rib wafted over from the gym across the hall, Crowds lined up in front of silent auction items that ranged from Team Canada Olympic swag to a pan of homemade fudge (which went for $275).
A three-time Olympic gold medalist and a Grey Cup Champion Saskatchewan Roughrider mingled with the crowd of farmers, businesspeople, retirees and young couples who had come together for one reason—to make sure there was enough money in the bank to make necessary repairs to Kennedy’s rink—the rink where Colleen Sostorics played hockey with the boys and probably never dreamed she would be playing for Olympic gold, the rink where a tiny Paige Lawrence first stood upright on skates, never having heard of a place called Sochi.
The crowd there for fun too, and great prime rib, and to hear great stories from Olympian Colleen Sostorics and Rider Mike McCullough, and to enjoy the $275 fudge.
But the main reason was to raise the money to get the Kennedy rink back in shape, and they did it.
Organizer Jill Debenham says the $33,000 raised through the Feb. 15 fundraiser is enough to top up insurance and complete the repairs needed for Kennedy’s rink.
“We were hoping to make $20,000, so we’re very happy with $33,000,” Debenham says.
The supper sold out, and the auction brought in about $20,000 altogether.
“We hoped for 50 auction items and we got 90,” said Debenham. “We had seven live auction items and made $8,500 from those, and the silent auction items brought in another $11,000.“
Seedmaster’s SED Foundation covered the cost of the food and the entertainment, which added $4,000 to the group’s bottom line.
Debenham says there was strong support for businesses in communities all around Kennedy, and she said it was fairly easy to recruit volunteers for the fundraiser.
“We have an active rink, and it’s important to a lot of people, so that makes it easier,” she said. “We focused on people who are involved with hockey or figure skating, who are involved with the rink.”
She estimated about 50 volunteers were involved in putting on the fundraiser.
Sostorics, who won Olympic gold with the Canadian Women’s Hockey team, said she never would have had the opportunity to achieve what she did in hockey without the Kennedy rink.
“I’m here, everyone is here, because we all believe in the importance of sport. We believe in what it does for a community, and we want to ensure the rink is there for our kids to play on,” she said. “This is a very important thing.”
She said the rink would not be there without the hard work of people in previous generations.
“Our parents built the rink, they cleaned the rink, they organized. So now it’s our turn to do our part to make sure that the opportunities that we had, that make us so happy, are not lost. Let’s all chip in and lend a hand.
“I feel very blessed to have grown up in this community. The rodeo brings us together in the summer, and the rink brings us together in the winter.”
Sostorics said watching the Sochi Olympics, and watching local skaters Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers compete, has brought back Olympic memories for her.
“Watching these Olympics, and watching Paige and Rudi, as we all have, brings back the feelings and the emotion of being there.
“If Paige was here tonight, I know she would say the same thing—that this community has not only supported us on our Olympic journey, but long, long before that.”
The Kennedy rink suffered $80,000 worth of water damage over the summer.
Insurance covered some but not all of the damage, which is why the fundraiser was organized.