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Shirts off to Oil Country

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Video: COMMUNITY | Shirts Off Our Backs

Do you hear what I hear?

It may not have been the ringing of the bells, but a special Christmas chime rang out through the Rexall Place bowl, signalling a list of raffle ticket winners who were about to be the lucky recipients of an autographed Oilers jersey.

That's right, Shirts Off Our Backs presented by Rogers returned to Oil Country Monday night, an in-game initiative that sees funds raised for the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton and Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) through the purchase of raffle tickets for the chance to win a crested, autographed orange Oilers jersey.

The concourse was buzzing with a festive atmosphere as fans filed onto the concourse, eager to purchase their tickets from both EOCF volunteers and the Oilers Ladies, as a full roster of crested, autographed orange Oilers jerseys were up for grabs.

The funds raised through ticket sales will help the Christmas Bureau support Edmonton families by providing them with a festive meal.

"We've been supporting the Christmas Bureau with the Shirts Off Our Backs initiative for over 30 years - it started actually when Kevin Lowe was a player here in Edmonton and he became the honourary chair for the Christmas Bureau," said Natalie Minckler, Executive Director of the EOCF.

Alongside Lowe are the Oilers Ladies, who have been part of the Christmas Bureau team as honourary co-chairs and part of the Shirts Off Our Backs initiative since 2003.

"At this time of year there's thousands and thousands of Edmontonians who need our support," said Minckler. "The Christmas Bureau has a huge goal this year and from what I understand, are having a hard time reaching that goal with our economy, so we're just doing our part here tonight with our fans who are very generous and supportive of the initiative, hoping to make a difference in the Christmas Bureau's campaign."

This year the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton is celebrating their 75th Anniversary and aim to raise $1.7 million to help over 67,000 Edmontonians. In 2014, a total of 64,636 individuals were provided a festive meal. Of that, 20,965 were children under the age of 12 and 8,090 were teen's aged 13-17.

Each year the ladies have participated in the Christmas Bureau media launch, building gingerbread houses and helping to promote the campaign. This year the Oilers Ladies also took it upon themselves to sponsor food hampers for local families.

Photo by Andy Devlin.

"This year Cam and Kelly Talbot brought this idea to us from their previous team where they would adopt a family at Christmas time," said Minckler. "So we worked with the Christmas Bureau and the wives and players each adopted a family here in Edmonton who needed some support."

"We've been involved with the Christmas Bureau for many years but this was the first year that we actually each adopted a family ourselves," said Oilers Lady, Lauren Rodych. "We just decided that we wanted to be more hands on."

For their adopted families, the ladies bought everything a family would need to enjoy a holiday meal and more.

"We found out what family we had and how many people were in the family and then we went out and bought stuff for their hamper, whether it was food or gifts or whatever they needed for the holiday season," said Rodych.

"Then we got in contact with them and we actually delivered it to their door so it was a great experience to get to see the families that we were helping."

As a special thank you to everyone participating in the Shirts Off Our Backs campaign and helping the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton, Rogers, the presenting sponsor, offered the fans who purchased five raffle tickets the chance to win a bonus prize: an orange jersey signed by the entire team.

"We're all very fortunate to live in this province and to live in this great city but sometimes people in our community just need a little bit extra, especially at this time of year," said Minckler.

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