Referees may be able to make sure a hockey game is played fairly, but there are no referees when it comes to cancer. Unfortunately, that means it can pick on anyone, including children. The Winnipeg Jets wives were looking to fight back and brighten the days of some of those kids with cancer by raising awareness and money for pediatric clinical trials in Manitoba with an event in mid-October.
The event was part of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, in partnership with the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative and CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. Three children with cancer and their families joined several women from the Jets wives and girlfriends group in painting pottery at the Brush Fire Ceramic Studio. The crew of Jets wives included Brittany Little, Brittany Mason, Emily Byfuglien, Camilla Enstrom, and Tina Kompon.
Sherelle Kwan, community events manager at CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, was thrilled about the event, and excited about how the partnership between True North and the Foundation has grown over the years.
"How can you not be touched when people want to come out and give their time?" said Kwan. "The fact the hockey wives and girlfriends are here and they're painting these plates, and that these kids get to have that once in a lifetime opportunity with their families is pretty special to witness."
That sentiment was shared by the children and their families, who had smiles on their faces from the moment they walked through the doors.
"This is huge," said Jason Schellenberg, whose three-year-old daughter Brenna was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer in July of 2016. "There's a lot of money that's raised for cancer and these funds going directly to pediatrics is huge."
While the kids got to choose their own pieces of pottery to paint, the Jets wives all painted hockey jersey-shaped ceramic plates. After the plates are finished, the Jets players will sign them, and the plates will be auctioned off at the Hockey Fights Cancer game on November 27 against the Minnesota Wild. This is the 3rd year the Brush Fire fundraiser has taken place.
"It's fun to be a part of it, but also super important," said Camilla Enstrom. "If we can do anything to help out and raise some money for CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, then we want to help as much as we can."
Just like the families, the Jets wives couldn't keep smiles off their faces either during the afternoon.
"It means a lot to see smiles on the kids' faces," Enstrom said. "They're going through a lot and if we can do something to make them forget about it even for a second, then it's totally worth it."
But at the end of the day, it was the families who just couldn't stop saying thank you.
"We're so thankful for the research that has gone into pediatric cancer, and it wouldn't happen if it weren't for people and organizations that do things like this," said Alicia French, the mother of 4-year old Maia, who was diagnosed with leukemia in April. "And just to get to be involved in special events gives you things to look forward to and makes you feel a little bit special."