KidSport Surrey-White Rock chair Ronnie Paterson (with microphone) speaks during last year’s Nite of Champions

Ex-Canuck GM to speak at annual KidSport gala

Brian Burke will be keynote speaker at second annual KidSport Nite of Champions, set for Hazelmere Golf Club next week.

A who’s-who of the sports world will be back at Hazelmere Golf and Country Club next week, when KidSport’s Nite of Champions returns to the Peninsula for a second year.

The gala event – which last year featured headlining speaker Trevor Linden, as well as BC Lions’ kicker Paul McCallum, Lions’ general manager Wally Buono, Olympian Christine Girard and Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison – is set for the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 26.

The event will again be MC’d by Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster and South Surrey resident Jim Hughson, and this year featured guests include former Vancouver Canuck Geoff Courtnall and outspoken NHL executive Brian Burke, currently the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.

“It’s going to be a great night,” said Ronnie Paterson, chair of KidSport’s Surrey-White Rock chapter. “Jim does a wonderful job with the evening, and with Brian here, it’s going to be pretty compelling.”

Last year’s inaugural event raised nearly $60,000 for the Surrey-White Rock chapter of KidSport, which helps cover sports registration costs – up to $300 – for young athletes who could not otherwise afford to play.

Since forming here, the Surrey-White Rock chapter has helped more than 720 young athletes – including more than 400 this year alone – compete in dozens of different sports, from soccer to baseball, to martial arts and bowling.

So far in 2013, the local chapter – which has been responsible for its own funding since March 2012 – has raised $80,000, which is a number sure to rise after next week’s event, though Paterson did not want to predict how much might be raised.

“We haven’t set an exact number, as far as a goal. We don’t want to put number out there because this event is about whatever people are able to contribute,” he said.

“If we raise $70,000, or if we do better, then great. If we raise less, that’s great too – it’s all money we didn’t have before.

And while he does not serve in an official capacity with KidSport’s local chapter, Hughson has been an enthusiastic supporter of the charity since it began.

“So much good comes from kids playing sports,” said Hughson, who has two children.

“There’s a real need for this is in our community. We tend to think of this area, in South Surrey, as being very affluent, but there’s a need here. You see families who can afford to have only one parent work, and you maybe don’t realize that your neighbour could use (help).”

The simplicity of the KidSport model – with funds raised going directly to registration costs – is also appealing to Hughson and others involved with the cause.

“What I like about KidSport is that it’s simple. Most of the people involved are volunteers… there’s not a lot of overhead so you know when you donate, all that money is going to help a child play sports.”

In addition to Burke, Tuesday’s event will also feature Canadian Olympian Richard Hortness, who competed in men’s swimming at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

As a youngster, Hortness, now 28, got his start in athletics as a KidSport-sponsored athlete.

And befitting an event aimed at helping young athletes, Tuesday’s gala will also see a number of young athletes from Surrey and White Rock in attendance.

Some will be tasked with showing the guests to their seats, and according to Paterson, one young athlete will even assist Hughson with the auction.

When it comes to the auction, Hughson said many of the items up for bid will have children in mind. For example, the Vancouver Canadians baseball team – the single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays – have donated a package that includes tickets for an entire team to attend one of their games next summer, plus a team practice at Nat Bailey Stadium. In addition, one lucky team member will get to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game the team attends.

“A lot of the auction items, it strictly benefits the kids,” Hughson said.

“You’ll leave with a warm place in your heart, rather than any (material) item.”

For more on KidSport’s Surrey-White Rock chapter, visit www.kidsportsurreywhiterock.ca

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