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A royal flush

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Canucks annual Dice & Ice fundraiser is a royal flush for the Canucks for Kids Fund.

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat took on a whole new meaning Monday night during the Vancouver Canucks' eleventh annual Dice & Ice benefit.

The Canucks for Kids Funds' signature charity benefit, a funny money casino evening with a “Rat Pack” theme held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, featured the Canucks themselves working their magic at the tables, but not at players, as dealers.

“I’ve played a lot of blackjack before so I know how it’s done, but it’s easier being on the other side of the table,” smiled second-year blackjack dealer Steve Bernier.

“It’s tough to be the dealer because you’ve got to add up the cards and really focus.”

Bernier, an experienced card player who had tried his hand in Las Vegas twice and come out on top both times, was as comfortable as the Canucks dealers came thanks to his extensive knowledge of cards.

Ryan Johnson, on the other hand, doesn’t know a full house from a flush.

“You put me in Vegas and I’ll be at the pool or at the shows, not at the slots or tables,” laughed Johnson. “I just have no concept of blackjack or poker or any of that stuff, which is very rare on this team.”

Thankfully Johnson is a quick learner and he’s come to learn a few of the the ins and outs of blackjack. It helped that Dice & Ice is about helping children in need, not walking away a millionaire.

All funds raised from the business formal event, which was sold-out yet again at 720 guests, benefit Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and the Canucks Autism Network. Nearly $300,000 in net proceeds was raised for the Canucks for Kids Fund in support of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation at last year’s event.

“Guys have been talking about this one for a while just because of all the interaction that goes on with the people at the tables and with all the unique things they have going on all night,” said Johnson. “It’s a good mix of pleasure and raising funds for some incredible causes and I think everyone has a good time.”

Also included in this year’s festivities were silent and live auctions featuring rare sports memorabilia, unique travel experiences and themed gift baskets created by players and their wives and significant others.

Among the swag up for grabs was a Canadian Classic Road Trip with the Canucks, a Roberto Luongo game-worn blocker, glove and stick, a Night Out with Tim McGraw, a Behind the Scenes on a Vancouver Movie Set experience and a Wheelbarrow of Booze.

While the players worked on their poker faces, it was smiles all around for the guests in attendance and two grins in particular jumped out from the crowd, that of Katy Harandi, chair of the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and John Rose, chair of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

For CAN, an organization that enhances the quality of life for families living with autism in British Columbia, this event is its biggest fundraiser of the year and being a relatively young charity with only two years under its belt, the funds raised make all the difference.

“It’s overwhelming to have such support from the Canucks for Kids Fund and the whole Canucks organization,” said Harandi. “I think it’s just fabulous to have an event where so many people who are dedicated to the Canucks turn up.”

“The funds help support our various programs and they’re really such a necessity in Canada and in Vancouver especially, because programs are really scarce and far between for autism. The Canucks Autism Network hopes to fill the gap and really help the families struggling with this challenging disorder.”

Rose echoed the sentiments that pairing fun with fundraising is really win-win situation for everyone.

“It’s a fun night, but it’s also very meaningful and I know for us, it’s a very significant event in the sense of just building awareness of what Canuck Place does and how we benefit from the involvement with the Canuck players, whether it’s pumpkin carving or coming over and being with the kids,” said Rose, adding that having ridden the elevator up with Kevin Bieksa, he sensed this was an event the players truly enjoyed getting behind.

“It’s one event that really is fun for them and I think it really connects the Canucks with the community. Then you’ve got the Canucks for Kids Fund and people like ourselves, Canuck Place, and CAN being the beneficiaries, I think it really brings the community together.”

Follow these links for more information on the Canucks for Kids Fund, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, the Canucks Autism Network and other Canucks community partnerships.

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