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Smiles on ice

by Ronil Desai / Vancouver Canucks

Growing up in foster care is challenging. Losing two friends to cancer is devastating.

Add the two scenarios together and Megan Lynn Lockerbie doesn’t have much reason to smile. But on January 14th at Rogers Arena, Megan, along with hundreds of children from around the lower mainland were beaming at Sun Life Financials Skate with the Vancouver Canucks.

As part of their sponsorship with Canucks Sports & Entertainment, Sun Life hosted an event open to clients, advisors, and local employees. Sun Life also invited various local community groups including the Children's Aid Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC, providing an opportunity for local youth to skate with several of their hockey heroes.

It’s not every day you have the chance to be in the in the same room as your heroes, let alone skate alongside them, but for Lockerbie, 21, and numerous youngsters, their dreams became a reality.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Lockerbie. “Since I was little I promised my friends I would meet the Canucks and after losing two friends to cancer, this is something they’ve always wanted to see.

“Growing up in foster care, there are not many chances to play sports, go to games, and to even skate alone. So in a way it’s fulfilling the dreams of not just mine, but the people I know.”

Over 800 hundred guests took to the ice and were joined by nine Canucks, including Alex Burrows, Cody Hodgson, Ryan Kesler, and Dale Weise.

The day-long event consisted of five 45-minute on-ice sessions, each with its fair share of wipe-outs, laughs and memories.

With each session taking a few turns around the rink, fans then raced along the side boards for autographs, pictures and more importantly, a face-to-face interaction with the players.

The thrill is nothing new for Canuck forward Dale Weise who volunteered to join two on-ice sessions with the guests. It was a bright afternoon and it didn’t take long for Weise to see how zealous everyone involved is.

“It’s great to give back,” said Weise. “Obviously without the fans we wouldn’t be doing what we do. It’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces’ and the level of excitement when you say their names. I used to be the kid hanging over the glass trying to get autographs. It’s so big for these kids to come out and see that aside from being hockey players, we’re just regular people.”

Having fewer opportunities than their peers, several underprivileged youth had the firsthand chance to personalize with their favourite players and bring reality to what they envision at home, a paramount step in their development.

“It helps build their confidence and self-esteem,” said Paul Joliat, director of sponsorship & marketing at Sun Life Financial. “For many of the kids, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Some of these kids come from a disadvantaged background and for us to put a smile on their faces means a lot to the local community.”

The six hours spent on the ice went up in no time, wherein every guest accomplished what they set out to do. To say it was a special moment for Paul and the guests would be an understatement; the smiles on the kids’ faces vouched for it.

“I’ll remember the smiles from the young and the old. When the kids are smiling, so are the parents. That mixed in with the excitement with being around the players is what we all will remember the most.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Vancouver offer a wide range of social, health, and educational services to assist young people in their growth and development.

The Children’s Aid Foundation strives to do the same, providing recreational opportunities for youth to experience the wonders of childhood.

Words were hard to come by after, but when asked how it felt skating on the same ice as the Canucks, Megan Lynn Lockerbie had two words, “totally epic.”

Click here to check out the photos from Saturday’s festivities.

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