The local sports community – along with a few special guests – will gather together this week at Hazelmere Golf and Country Club in support of KidSport’s third annual Nite of Champions event.
For the third year in a row, Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Jim Hughson – a South Surrey resident – will act as MC of the event, which is set for Wednesday evening.
This year’s guest speaker is B.C.-born country musician Chad Brownlee, who will no doubt entertain guests with tales his unique career path. He will also perform.
Before turning to music, the 30-year-old Lower Mainland resident had big-league hockey dreams. He played two years junior hockey for the Vernon Vipers of the BC Hockey League, before earning a scholarship to play at Minnesota State-Mankato University.
In 2003, Brownlee – a defenceman – was drafted by his hometown Vancouver Canucks, but after completing his university career and playing one year professionally in the minor leagues, he officially traded his hockey stick for a guitar.
“It’s really neat to have him here, because he’s got a great story, and a great connection (to the sports community),” said Hughson.
The Nite of Champions has always attracted a who’s-who of local sports celebrities. Last year, Calgary Flames president – and former Vancouver Canucks general manager – Brian Burke was the guest of honour, and Canuck great – and new team president – Trevor Linden spoke at the inaugural gala in 2012.
BC Lions’ general manager Wally Buono, Vancouver soccer legend Carl Valentine, and a handful of Olympic athletes have also been part of past events.
Ronnie Paterson, president of the KidSport Surrey-White Rock chapter, said Buono plans to be back this year, and former Vancouver Canuck defenceman Jyrki Lumme will also be in attendance.
“It’s been so meaningful for us to see so many people embrace the KidSport concept,” said Paterson, a former goaltender himself with the Canadian national program.
“It’s a charity that everyone has really come together to support, and that’s really exciting.”
The Nite of Champions is the KidSport Surrey-White Rock’s chief fundraiser for the year. Last year’s event raised $95,000, Paterson said, and the ’12 gala raised about $85,000.
Funds raised by KidSport help cover sports registration costs for young athletes who could not otherwise afford to play.
Nearly 1,000 local athletes have benefitted from the charity’s efforts so far.
“We live in an area here, in White Rock-South Surrey, which we think is an affluent community that might not have this type of need – but there is,” Hughson said.
“It’s about kids, about staying active and playing sports… It’s a real easy thing to support. Why would you not want to be a part of it?”
For more on the local branch of KidSport, click here.