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50/50 is a win-win

by Karl Wiebe / Calgary Flames
“Well, they show the numbers on the Enmax Energy Board pretty quickly, so you have to be ready,” says Jessica Pollard, 27. “I looked at my tickets and I said to my boyfriend, ‘I think we won!’ and of course he said, ‘no way!’ And then we looked up to confirm it, but the numbers had gone.”

There are about 20,000 fans per Flames game that would love to have that problem. However, at the last home game of the season, it was up to Jessica to see if she had indeed won. “I got really excited and jumped up, and all my stuff went flying because I had my wallet and my purse in my lap. So we ran over to see the usher and he escorted us to the right place, and we waited about twenty minutes for the official confirmation that we had won. It was so surreal.”
Jessica Pollard won $70,000 in the Flames 50/50 draw

Jessica was the recipient of $70,000, the largest payout of the season for the Flames Foundation 50/50 draw. Fans can find hard-working ticket sellers during every home Flames game. But who are selling the tickets?

“The beneficiaries of the 50/50 program are two-fold,” says Natasha Guillot, the Director of the Flames Foundation for Life, the official charity of the Calgary Flames Hockey Club. “We have various minor league and amateur sports teams fundraising, and they work during the game to sell the tickets to our patrons. They get a certain percentage of the total sales. So they get an honorarium for the work that they’ve done and that goes to their fundraising initiative.”

The concept behind the 50/50 draw is simple: half of the proceeds of the sales go to the holder of the winning ticket, such as Jessica, and the other half goes directly to the Flames Foundation. There are four pillars that the charity runs, and these form the cornerstones of the Flames Foundation’s mission in the community.

The first one is Rotary Flames House; a pediatric hospice and respite centre for terminally ill children has 11 patient rooms, therapeutic activity areas and a classroom. There is also a Rotary Flames Park at Ronald McDonald House, where out-of-town families whose children are receiving treatment in a Calgary hospital can stay. The Reach Initiative is run in conjunction with the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services in order to achieve a new world standard of health for southern Albertans. And, perhaps what the charity is best known for, the Flames Foundation supports amateur sport through the Flames EvenStrength Program, which helps hundreds of children each year play minor hockey.

The 50/50 draw is not only a great cause, but Jessica was thrilled and surprised to win the money. “My dad has been a season ticket holder for 15 years, so I’ve been a Flames fan ever since I was born. I love going to games with my dad, and my boyfriend and I go to as many games as my dad will cough up,” she laughs.

“It was a funny night – my dad phoned earlier in the afternoon and he gave us the tickets last minute,” Jessica comments. “It is always fun to go to a Flames game, I was happy to go!”

Jessica and her father have been long-time Flames fans, seeing the team through some struggles in the 1990s and now enjoying their success as one of the premier teams in the NHL. “Robyn Regehr is one of my favourites, and of course Jarome Iginla is the best. In so many ways, he is the face of the team – he’s the ultimate team player. Regehr is a hard-working defenceman, and I have always liked the way he plays. He’s a great player.”

The final regular season home game of the season is always special, as the Flames players use this as an opportunity to say thanks to the fans. As well as prizes and promotions, the 50/50 pot was especially large. “Our normal payout during the season would be around $21,000 to $37,000,” Natasha says. “For the last regular season game, we had a $45,000 guaranteed pot.” However, the sales were so strong that Jessica wound up with $70,000 in her pocket, which is a testament to the dedication of Flames fans to not only support a worthy cause, but also to try their chances at winning some serious money.

“It was a good thing my dad gave me the tickets!” Jessica laughs. “I’m a sales assistant for an instrumentation company. I really like it. I’ve been there for about six years, and history shows that I really like my job and the people I work with. I currently paid off all of my debts. I’m hoping to go on a trip next year as well. I really want to check out Thailand and Southeast Asia. Plus, I want to save some of it,” Jessica adds. “It feels awesome!”

Fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome may notice multiple charitable initiatives, depending on the time of year. “We have some in-game programs that are popular with the fans,” Natasha says. “These include the 50/50 of course, but we also have a Christmas ornament sale during the holidays and the autographed puck sale during the playoffs. Also, there is sports memorabilia available on the concourse to bid on, and the Flames Foundation takes a certain percentage of that as well.”

Natasha has been with the Flames Foundation for a year and a half and loves being involved in a rewarding and exciting part of the business. “It’s quite an interesting dichotomy being on the charitable side and also being involved in professional sports. I get the best of both worlds. I know for a fact that I am fundraising money for very concrete projects. These projects are not vague – I know exactly where the dollars are going. Also, working for the Flames Foundation, I could not ask for better spokespeople. I feel like the entire team are spokesmen for the Flames Foundation.”

The next time you are at a Calgary Flames game, make sure to support not only a great cause through one of the Flames Foundation in-game initiatives, but buy a 50/50 ticket because you just never know if your number will be called.
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