SUMMERSIDE — It was a big cheque that will have an even bigger impact.
Monday, during its 11th annual Celebrity Dinner, the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside was presented with an oversized cheque for $60,000, money to be used towards its Youth Engagement Centre.
The money came from the Rotary Club of Summerside, presented by its outgoing president Tim Hochin near the end of the evening’s festivities.
It was also announced before a crowd of 700 that a wing of the centre, which is expected to open in September, is going to be named after long-time club supporter, Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo.
It will be called the George Chuvalo Survival Centre.
“George has been working with the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside for the last 15 years, speaking to schools, speaking to the Boys and Girls Club members,” said the club’s executive director, Adam Binkley, before the cheque was presented. “He is a Fight Against Drugs activist and he is doing everything he can so that the tragedies that happened to his family won’t happen to yours.
“We have a very special presentation tonight and it all because of what George has done with the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside.”
Hochin, a teacher at Three Oaks Senior High School, said he sees first hand the impact the club has on the community and its youth, evidenced through the past club members that go to his school, and the continued need in the community.
“Community is a key pillar of Rotary. When we heard about the great work that Adam was doing and that the Boys and Girls Club were doing for our community, it was a very easy decision to support the vision that they had,” he added. “What they are doing is making a huge difference in our community. It is strengthening and supporting our community.”
The aim of the Youth Engagement Centre, which will be located just metres from the club, will be to provide programming for at-risk youth ages 13 to 19.
“The sole purpose to reduce youth-related drug addiction and youth-related crimes,” said Binkley, as he turned to Chuvalo and said, “And it is all because of the great work that you’ve done. You’ve also got the attention of the Rotary.”
The announcement, which drew gasps, oohs, awes and a standing ovation from those in attendance, was one of the highlights of the star-studded dinner, held inside Eastlink Arena at Credit Union Place.
Head table guests included two-time Olympic gold medalist and Summerside’s own Heather Moyse, her teammate Kaillie Humphries, Florida Panthers coach and Summerside native Gerard Gallant, NHL legends Ray Bourque and Bobby Hull and four-time Gold Glove winner, baseball great Tony Fernandez.
And, throughout the crowd, were other top name athletes, both from on and off the Island, including former Boston Bruin Bob Sweeney, Forbes Kennedy and Al MacAdam, Islanders who both had standout NHL careers, and former NHLer who held the league record from 1993 to 2009 for hardest shot, Al Iafrate.
They, along with about 700 others, sat down to break bread with the same goal — to support the Boys and Girls Club, now in its 50th year, and the thousands of children it serves each year.
A special presentation was also made to hockey’s most famous father, Walter Gretzky who, for the last time, was in attendance at the event.
The Great One’s former teammate, Marty McSorely, was on hand to honour Gretzky, whom the club’s Saturday night ball hockey program is named after.
“What makes Canadian players so special is their sense of team, their sense of obligation to the team, their unselfishness and their sense of family. The players get that from the example we’ve had from our parents,” said McSorely. “I saw first-hand for about 10 and a half years the impact that Walter had on Wayne, how he kept Wayne grounded... focused towards family and team. I see Walter all across the country and he is tireless.”
McSorely added, “We’ve given Walter the moniker of the First Father of Hockey and I think it is very, very fitting. Walter, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you very, very much.”
Gerard Gallant, who, in his youth, attended the club, presented the Boy and Girl of the Year Awards, named after his late brother, Larry.
Accepting the award to thunderous applause from the crowd were Daniel Banks and Chloe Woods.
There was also a fashion show featuring club members and some of the celebrities dressed in the club’s new apparel line and a behind-the-scenes look at a movie made by the club’s members to coincide with 2014 celebrations.
The evening was filled with stories and kudos to Binkley and the community for their continued support in growing the club to what it is today — an employer of 29 full-time staff and 90 seasonal and part-time staff, an organization that, last year, served 16,500 breakfasts and 23,500 after-school snacks to its members, and a place where 120 youth from five area schools go to when the bell rings each day.
For more about the club, visit ssidebgclub.com