Do­na­tion helps Sun Rays in mis­sion to foster spe­cial hockey

The Woolwich Observer - - SPORTS - ALI WIL­SON

HOCKEY SEA­SON UN­DER­WAY, THIS year’s Wool­wich Sun Rays ros­ter were joined Saturday by fam­ily and friends for a mee­tand-greet at the Wool­wich Me­mo­rial Cen­tre. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also re­ceived the pro­ceeds of a re­cent fundrais­ing event.

The money will help the team meet its mis­sion of giv­ing play­ers a safe place to learn and de­velop while mak­ing friends and hav­ing fun play­ing Canada’s pas­time.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is open to spe­cial needs play­ers, male and fe­male, who are six years of age or older.

“It is to give peo­ple who can’t play main­stream hockey a place to play hockey. It is Canada’s best­loved sport and peo­ple’s brothers and sis­ters and friends and school­mates are play­ing hockey, so this gives all of those play­ers a safe place to do the same,” said Julie Jamieson, pres­i­dent of the Sun Rays’ board, of their pur­pose.

Jamieson founded the team in Elmira after grow­ing up with a brother who played sports when he could, but who didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to play in an or­ga­nized league.

“He passed a few years back at 48. His name was Ray­mond and he was a big sports en­thu­si­ast and loved ball and hockey and wrestling and all of it. He would watch lots of it and do his best to sort of play recre­ational on his own and with friends,” she said.

“But there was no for­mat or venue then for him to re­ally be­long to a team of any kind, at least any that we knew of, so it was some­thing in my mind that there should be a place and a way that those kinds of in­di­vid­u­als have a place to be­long, a place to play.”

Cu­ri­ous about the op­por­tu­ni­ties out there, Jamieson vol­un­teered at a lo­cal spe­cial hockey in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment in Kitch­ener.

“It opened my eyes and I was aware that this does in fact ex­ist. Lots of lo­cal cen­tres have teams, so it was after that that I de­cided to ap­proach Wool­wich Mi­nor Hockey to ask about the idea and to see if there was a way we could form a team in Wool­wich,” she ex­plained, not­ing that the pres­i­dent at the time not only wel­comed the idea with open arms but did a con­sid­er­able amount of work to help bring the pro­ject to life.

“That is how it got started and so the team now,

the Sun Rays, are named for my brother, so it was neat. It is a good town­ship and it has cer­tainly been a com­mu­nity that is di­verse and in­clu­sive,” she said.

“It just seemed ev­ery­where we turned peo­ple were in fa­vor and sup­port­ive and won­der­ing how they could help, so it was a great col­lec­tive ef­fort to bring it to life, but it seemed like some­thing that Wool­wich was very ready for.”

In their third year, the Rays wel­comed 20 lo­cal play­ers onto the team, the youngest nine year of age, the old­est 49.

Ray­mond, as his nephew Wil Jamieson ex­plains, was well-known in the com­mu­nity. In his mem­ory Wil, along with his friend Greg DeMeu­le­n­eare, put on the first of what they hope will be an an­nual BBQ with all pro­ceeds going into sup­port­ing the spe­cial needs com­mu­nity. Fit­tingly, this year the pro­ceeds went into the hockey team named after Ray.

“There are a lot of peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions that helped sup­port my un­cle through his life, so now we want to give back to the peo­ple that sup­ported him and carry his name on. He was a bit of a rock star in the com­mu­nity, ev­ery­body loved Ray­mond.”

That sup­port was a driv­ing fac­tor that helped the two put to­gether the event in only six weeks.

With sup­port from lo­cal busi­nesses they were able to cover close to the en­tire cost of the event, and well ex­ceed their ini­tial goal of $2,100.

“And that’s why we are able to present $7,500 to­day to these guys,” said DeMeu­le­n­eare, be­fore re­ceiv­ing a round of ap­plause from the lunch guests.

“We were aim­ing for 60 peo­ple sit­ting down and we ended up hav­ing 92, so the only lim­i­ta­tion was the size of my back­yard.” Wil joked of the yard at his St. Ja­cobs home.

Next year, the two hope to be able to ex­pand the me­mo­rial fundraiser to be held at the Water­loo Rod and Gun Club.

This year though, the pro­ceeds will help the Sun Rays with rental costs, equip­ment and tour­na­ment ex­penses among other things.

“It was won­der­ful, they were very suc­cess­ful and raised an aw­ful lot of money and the pro­ceeds will come to our team this year,” said Julie Jamieson. “We are in a po­si­tion where some fam­i­lies are cer­tainly in a po­si­tion to af­ford a ho­tel room, oth­ers less so, so we kind of want to have enough so that we can treat all of the play­ers equally and sup­port them by sub­si­dis­ing the tour­na­ments. That (do­na­tion) will be able to help quite a bit for the costs for play­ers.”

Prac­tic­ing ev­ery Saturday morn­ing at 11 a.m., the team trav­els to play against Orangeville, Guelph, Cam­bridge, Kitch­ener and Hanover in ad­di­tion to at­tend­ing tour­na­ments.

[ALI WIL­SON / THE OB­SERVER]

The Wool­wich Sun Rays were pre­sented with $7,500 at their an­nual meet-and-greet event last week at the WMC. The funds came from the first an­nual Ray­mond Di­et­rich Me­mo­rial BBQ. The WMC event also fea­ture a draw for a signed game stick from the LA Kings’ Tan­ner Pear­son.

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