By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
While hockey is a very popular sport in Canada, the cost of equipping and re-equipping growing kids can be prohibitive for some families, not to mention registration fees required to play in many organized leagues.
While there are some corporate organizations that aim to get kids on the ice, Donna’s Kids is part of the Kitchener Minor Hockey Association and is a home-grown charity that uses 100 per cent of donations for equipping children and covering registration fees, according to Eric Skovsgaard, fundraising director for Donna’s Kids.
Donna Weber volunteered with Kitchener Minor Hockey for 35 years, raising money to give every child a chance to play hockey, regardless of their families’ financial challenges.
“When she passed in [March 2010], the board made the decision we wanted to continue this program in her honour,” said Skovsgaard.
“So we branded it and we built a website and we promoted it. That’s a blessing and a curse, because more kids are playing hockey than ever before, but, of course, we need to raise the funds to make sure it continues on.”
It costs about $750 to get the average child on the ice — $450 in registration fees and around $300 in equipment, according to Skovsgaard.
“My mandate this year is to try and raise $125,000,” said Skovsgaard, who volunteers his time with the charity. So far, about $60,000 has been raised.
“We just keep plugging away at these little initiatives here and there and hope that they all add up to the grand total at the end of the [season].”
Donna’s Kids has several large fundraisers, like the annual golf tournament, which this year raised $25,000.
Still to come — a raffle of six signed NHL jerseys, running from the beginning of January until the end of March.
“The six players that have autographed jerseys are all former Kitchener Rangers. They all have a connection to Donna Weber from their time here in Kitchener because the Webers are tremendous supporters of billets for Ranger players, and always have been,” said Skovsgaard.
“Some very prominent NHL players are now helping to support us in this cause as well.”
The charity also has the support of the Kitchener Rangers and Sun Life Financial, which hold a combined drive to collect used hockey equipment.
“They set up collection boxes at Sun Life Financial — at their offices around Kitchener-Waterloo — as well as at the Auditorium for Kitchener Rangers games,” he said.
“Fans and employees can bring in used equipment and drop it in the box.”
After the equipment is collected, volunteers with Donna’s Kids take it to their partner, Play It Again Sports.
The second-hand sports equipment store will buy any equipment that is in good enough condition for them to sell, and give a credit to Donna’s Kids, which they use to outfit children in the program.
Anything that can’t be sold goes to Grace Weber — Donna’s sister — in Milverton.
“All the equipment that is collected that is not in a condition to be resold, I drive it out to Milverton and we put it all in Grace’s garage and she puts the word out,” said Skovsgaard.
“Within a week, the Mennonite leaders come to her property and they collect what they can use for the kids to play outdoor hockey in the winter.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation to Donna’s Kids can visit www.donnaskids.ca. All donations are funneled through the City of Kitchener, which issues a tax receipt, according to Skovsgaard.
The charity will be accepting online applications for funding between late April and September.