When a friendly golf challenge played out between law enforcement officers from the Vancouver International Airport in the late 80s, no one participating could have foreseen the monumental effects it would have years later.
Workers from the RCMP, US Customs, US Immigration and Canadian Customs took part, including officer Brian Flagel.
Shortly after the initial tournament, Brian and his wife Audrey lost their daughter Elise to cancer after an extended stay at the Canuck Place Children's Hospice.
In the wake of losing their daughter, the Flagels rallied the passionate airport community together to turn the golf tournament into a charity fundraiser for Canuck Place and the YVR Golf for Kids Tournament was born.
Eighteen years later the event is as strong as ever and on Thursday the 2009 edition took place in Richmond.
Golfing was the first order of business, the Texas scramble formatted tournament played out at the Mayfair Lakes Golf and Country Club before a gala dinner and auction kicked off a night to remember.
More than 500 silent auction prizes were up for grabs, including various Vancouver Canucks gear, but the real must-have on this night was a Kodak moment with Canucks stars Mason Raymond, Alex Edler and former captain Stan Smyl.
As you can guess, the line-up for the photo booth was a long one.
“This is the third event I’ve done now since I’ve been out here and I really enjoy being here, it’s great for the kids and it’s all going to a good cause,” said Raymond, who returned to Vancouver just over a week ago.
“For myself to donate a little bit of time is something so little that I can do to help a kid smile or help a family in need. It’s a lot of fun.”
While Raymond flashed his pearly whites for every shot, Edler was Edler holding back his rock-star smile. Smyl was simply relieved there wasn’t a kissing booth as well.
All three Canucks amped up the profile of the event and both Fran Davis and Jim Westmacott, co-chairs of YVR Golf for Kids, were thrilled to have them there.
“The link with Canuck Place has allowed us to work with the Canucks organization and they’ve always had players and alumni come out to support the event and management as well, so it’s been a great relationship,” said Westmacott.
“This event has really just grown exponentially over the years and they’ve been a big part of that.”
All the proceeds of the YVR Golf for Kids go to children’s charities in Vancouver and Richmond, with Canuck Place being a major recipient.
Last year $190,000 was directed to Canuck Place and to date $2.6 million has been raised and granted back to community organizations serving children in need.
To a not-for-profit organization like Canuck Place, which offers "a comprehensive continuum of care to over 350 children and teens with life-threatening illnesses and their families throughout British Columbia,” events such as this are its lifeline.
“When there’s an event like this that raises a significant amount of dollars, we can rest assured that tomorrow we’ll be able to keep those beds open, we can rest assured that we can guarantee our families that they’ll have that support available to them tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and the day after that,” said Filomena Nalewajek, chief executive officer of Canuck Place.
Canuck Place relies on the generosity of individuals and businesses for support, making this event their largest grossing fundraiser.
Nalewajek said the spin-off from the YVR Golf for Kids tournament is also significant as people are exposed to the miraculous work that Canuck Place does and they often become more impactful donors.
That’s not to say everyone can’t make a difference.
“Every penny counts at Canuck Place, every penny counts,” Nalewajek said.
“We have this, our largest grossing third party event that raises a significant amount of money, but this week we also had a couple of kids who brought in paper bags full of change they raised. Instead of asking for gift on their birthdays, they asked for donations to Canuck Place and that’s just wonderful because every penny counts.”