Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Jim Hughson speaks with former White Rock Renegade, and current Canadian women’s national team member, Sara Groenewegen during the Nite of Champions virtual gala. (Contributed photo)

Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Jim Hughson speaks with former White Rock Renegade, and current Canadian women’s national team member, Sara Groenewegen during the Nite of Champions virtual gala. (Contributed photo)

KidSport BC’s virtual Nite of Champions gala raises more than $100,000

‘We are very grateful and very appreciative of everybody’s commitment,’: chapter president

Not even a global pandemic could stop the Surrey/White Rock chapter of KidSport BC from helping out the region’s youngest athletes.

On Tuesday night (March 9), the non-profit group – which raises money to help cover sports registration costs for athletes whose families could not otherwise afford it – held its annual Nite of Champions gala.

Rather than the traditional in-person event, this year it was held online, with athletes and coaches being interviewed by Semiahmoo Peninsula resident, and longtime Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Jim Hughson.

And though organizers didn’t go into Tuesday’s event with any particular fundraising target in mind – largely as a result of challenges individuals and businesses have faced as a result of COVID-19 – the event raised more than $100,000, Ronnie Paterson, president of Surrey/White Rock chapter, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

“It’s about the same (amount) as previous years, which was interesting. We continue to be in the middle of a pandemic, so for our community to raise these types of funds, it’s tremendous,” he said.

“We are very grateful and very appreciative of everybody’s commitment to our charity.”

The entire event was pre-recorded – interviews with those on National Hockey League teams took place before the season started – and featured Hughson talking with, among others, Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green, Montreal Canadiens stars Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher, Edmonton Oilers chairman and longtime Hockey Canada CEO Bob Nicholson and Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman Scott Niedermayer.

Canadian national women’s fastpitch team pitcher Sara Groenewegen, as well as former national team member Melanie Matthews, also spoke, and country musician Chad Brownlee performed.

“Feedback we got from people was really great. People really seem to have enjoyed the interview with Travis Green. They got to see an entirely different side of him – talking about growing up in Castlegar and about what sports meant to him growing up,” Paterson said.

While the regular, in-person galas of the past have always included a handful of notable guests, Paterson said the fact that this year’s event was virtual helped attract an even deeper roster of A-list speakers than usual. It’s something that organizers may incorporate in the future, long after the pandemic has subsided, he said.

“You’d be very, very hard-pressed to get this many (high profile) people in the same room at the same time, so maybe there’s a portion of this year’s event we can utilize again,” he said.

“It might be a hybrid situation moving forward. When we can, everyone wants to get together and see each other – that will always be important – but we’ll take what we learned and see what we can do with it.”

This year’s speakers also helped give KidSport a profile boost, Paterson noted, pointing to the fact that Gallagher tweeted out a link to the gala, “And he’s got something like 280,000 Twitter followers.”

“It gives the KidSport brand a nice boost, which is something we’ve been focusing on – making sure that everyone in our community knows that these funds are available.”

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