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Oilers reporters lace up the skates for good cause

by staff / Edmonton Oilers

Oilers TV Reporter and Host Tom Gazzola, as well as Head Writer Chris Wescott will be among the local media personalities lacing up for a good cause on May 28.

The fourth annual DirtyBirds Charity Tournament will take place May 28, at Sherwood Park Arena Sports Centre & Shell beginning at 8 am and ending at 8pm. The tournament was created to help raise awareness and funds for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund (NKF) at the Stollery Children's Hospital.

Chris Wescott, Ryan Jespersen and Tom Gazzola at last year's charity tournament. Photo provided.

NKF is a cause committed to improving the lives of children who have had a brain or spinal cord surgery. It is also meant to support the families of these children. This year, four Stollery children who lost their lives, as well as their families, will be honoured at the event.

"It's hard to explain exactly what this event is all about until you see it for yourself," said Chris Branco, one of the event founders and organizers. "I encourage anyone who can make it out to the event to come. It's free for families and lots of hockey and fun activities for the kids."

In three years of existence, the tournament has raised more than $265,000 for the NKF and Stollery Children's Hospital. The tournament will be raising funds this year to give the children who have endured these procedures an opportunity to experience a four-day overnight camp. Bereavement support will also be provided for the families who have lost their children from brain or spinal injuries.

Gazzola and Wescott will join Oilers In-Game Host and 630CHED's Ryan Jespersen, as well as CBC's Min Dhariwal and CTV's Darcy Seaton as media participants. Gazzola, Jespersen, Dhariwal and Seaton will be drafted by the four participating teams, while Wescott will emcee the silent auction on May 27. All five will play in the tournament.

"It'll be another fantastic weekend on the ice in support of a great cause," said Gazzola. "I love being a part of this event and it has been an honour to play in it since the beginning. Looking forward to another tremendous Dirty Birds Tournament helping out the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at The Stollery!"

The participants have spent the past few months raising money for the tournament. So far, roughly $50,000 has been raised before the auction.

"I'm really excited to participate in this event for another year," said Wescott. "It's a great cause for some great kids. The hockey side is a lot of fun, but I think the most important thing is everyone is in it for the kids and their families."

The silent auction will be held at Average Joes in Sherwood Park (390 Baseline Rd) at 7 pm. Several items will be up for bid, including a Connor McDavid signed jersey, a spot in Jason Strudwick's hockey camp and an Oilers Farewell Rexall Place canvas. Tickets are $20 and include a drink and entry for door prizes.

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