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The million family

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

When Brent and Linda King go on vacation, they go to work.

The retired couple, originally from BC and now living in Alberta, has been married for 39 years and over that time they’ve raised an enormous family that comes together like nobody's business.

Brent, 60, and Linda, 57, raised eight children, beginning in the early 1970s when they were in their early 20s. It was then they experienced the toughest hardship they’ve ever endured when their second child Steven, born with Spina bifida, died at the age of six.

The couple mourned the passing of Steven by promising to do whatever they could to honour his memory, by helping families facing similar adversity.

They stayed true to their word and have now raised more than one million dollars for Canuck Place Children's Hospice.

If you’ve been to a Vancouver Canucks game over the last 12 years, odds are pretty good you’ve helped contribute to their incredible charity.

In 2000, Brent accompanied one of his son’s school classes to a Canucks game where the group donated their time as 50/50 volunteers. The more Brent looked into the charitable aspect of the night, the more it started to make sense.

“We realized it would be a great way to honour Steven,” said Brent, at Rogers Arena this past Saturday prior to pre-game warm-up. “The family was on board right away and we just started selling.”

For more than seven years Brent and Linda donned red 50/50 t-shirts and toured the arena selling tickets - three for $5 or seven for $10 or 18 for $20 - to those 19-years or older.

By the time they moved to Alberta five years ago, almost everyone in the family, sons and daughters now ranging in age from 23 to 38, had taken a turn working the ‘family business’ with daughter Traci and her husband Jeremy Tessier latching on permanently in 2003.

The King family is now spread across Canada with children living coast-to-coast, but Brent and Linda visit them all as often as possible. Before they come to Vancouver, they check the hockey schedule to ensure the Canucks are playing because even though they now live in enemy territory surrounded by Flames and Oilers, they’re still welcomed back with open arms.

Since moving, Brent and Linda have returned to sell 50/50 tickets at Canucks’ games at least a dozen times, they even worked 15 men’s and women’s hockey games during the 2010 Winter Olympics; a few years ago they crunched the numbers from all their sales at Canucks’ games and realized there might be an impromptu family gathering in their future.

That gathering occurred Saturday when the entire King family (except for one daughter ready to give birth any minute in Edmonton) occupied Rogers Arena to help push the family over the million dollar mark. Eighteen people, including family members and their spouses, sold 50/50 tickets to help raise the fourth highest jackpot of the season of $105,160. From that, $52,580 will go to Canucks for Kids Fund, which supports various charitable groups throughout the BC, including Canucks Autism Network and Canuck Place.

Canuck Place wasn’t around when six-year-old Steven was fighting for his life, but had it been the family knows it would have made a world of difference.

“We thought this would be as close as we could come to honour him and to try and say thank you to the community for how well we were treated,” said Linda. “We were such a young family at the time and it was hard, so giving back this way is very rewarding. We’ve walked that path, so we understand what parents would go through.”

“I know that this charity would have been very helpful to my family,” added Traci. “Saying goodbye to a child is never easy and I can’t even imagine that as a mother now, how that would feel. This is kind of a way to not only support Steven’s memory, and my parents, but all the families who are going through that and showing gratitude for the health of our own family and just doing what we can do in our community.”

If you think helping the community and walking the path of a 50/50 sales person is monotonous, you couldn’t be further off. To hear the Kings talk about it, you’d assume it’s better than watching the one-ice product. While not much can compare to the thrill of scoring a game-winning goal, selling the winning 50/50 certainly comes close.

“We have friendly little games,” grinned Traci. “We’re always seeing who sold the most and if anyone sold the winning ticket. I have three times, same with my husband, so it’s a lot of fun.”

There are few win-win situations in life, but this definitely fits the bill.

Traci and Jeremy will be in attendance Tuesday night, for the first time ever as fans, to represent the King family and be honoured as the final Canucks Local Heroes of the season.

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