The second annual Braestone Winter Classic Charity Pond Hockey Tournament has exceeded its fundraising goal of $77,000.
Despite temperatures that felt colder than -38 degrees Celsius during the first games of the tournament Friday, 20 teams are skating in support of the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre this weekend.
Ted Markle, the organizer of the event, says the spirit and energy of the tournament are high despite the cold.
“Hey, we are Canadians. We love the great outdoors,” he said. “We can handle a bit of cold temperatures.”
While the weather might not be perfect for the tournament’s players, who Markle says have all maintained an “incredibly positive” attitude, it makes for an ideal ice surface.
“The ice is in very good condition,” he said. “We have an ice crew who is making repairs, and we have dedicated volunteers across the board who are making a difference.”
Surpassing the fundraising goal before the second day of the tournament has left Markle at a loss for words, especially considering the event was inspired by Markle’s brother, Jeff, who died of cancer more than a year ago.
“The act of remembering is important,” he said. “We can reach into the past and remember someone who made a difference in our lives and we can bring their memory into the present to inspire us to do good work together as a community.”
It warms his heart to see Braestone Farm, at 3288 Line 9 N. in Oro-Medonte, packed with supporters and spectators this weekend.
“I think there is something uniquely Canadian about pond hockey,” Markle said. “We are embracing this weather that is a part of what makes us Canadian and playing a game that means so much to so many for a good cause.”
He thanks volunteers as players, as well as the Massie family for lending the setting to the event.
Matthew Follwell, chief of oncology with the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Program at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), says events like the Braestone Winter Classic play a vital part in the care provided in the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre. Last year, there were more than 100,000 visits to the centre.
“With our region growing, the number of people needing the world-class, life-saving care that RVH offers will continue to grow as well,” Follwell said. “The money raised at this tournament will help us to realize our vision for the future of cancer care in our region: finding more types of cancers as early as possible and removing them while harming as little healthy tissue as possible.”
The money raised from the tournament will go to RVH’s Keep Life Wild campaign, which is supporting RVH’s expansion, including the regional cancer program.
“We will introduce more advanced imaging for more precise and faster diagnosis and treatment,” Follwell said. “We’ll treat more types of cancer and expand the size of the spaces in which we can provide that care. We’ll also have new, minimally invasive treatments like high-dose brachytherapy, which places radiation directly into or next to a tumour to treat gynecological and prostate cancer.
“Ultimately, our aim is to improve patient outcomes, with less time in hospital, in as few treatments as necessary, and with shorter recovery times, all without having to travel.”
Follwell says playing in the tournament brought back memories of skating on his family farm.
"Pond hockey brings people together all while working together for a good cause,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss this.”