|In a little more than a year, Senators forward Alex Kovalev's charitable foundation has made a huge impact in Quebec. Now he'd like to extend a helping hand to youngsters in the Ottawa area (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Alex Kovalev is a man with his heart in the right place.
Nothing tugs at it more than the many children the Ottawa Senators forward supports through his Kovalev and Friends For Kids Foundation. In just a little more than a year, the Montreal-based charity has made a huge impact throughout Quebec and across the world in Kovalev’s homeland of Russia.
Now the player with the jaw-dropping moves on the ice is stickhanding his foundation toward the capital region. Kovalev intends to partner his charity’s work with that of the Sens Foundation. It’s expected he’ll make an initial donation of $10,000 to $15,000 from the proceeds of his second annual charity golf tournament, which is set for Thursday at the Elm Ridge Country Club in Île-Bizard, Que.
“We’re planning to give a donation to the Ottawa Senators Foundation to help some kids with cardiac problems,” said Walter Valentini, the general manager of the Kovalev and Friends For Kids Foundation.
“Alex has done a lot of work (in the past) with the Montreal Canadiens Foundation and he wants to have to same kind of interaction with the Ottawa Senators Foundation. We want to work together.”
Kovalev’s helping hand is most definitely appreciated by Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson.
"We are delighted to have Alex join our efforts with the Sens Foundation,” she said. “His work with his own foundation shows the special place that children have in his heart and we look forward to sharing that unique spirit of giving with him in the years to come."
The Kovalev and Friends For Kids Foundation draws its inspiration from the player’s own childhood. Hockey was a passion early in his life but when Kovalev was eight years old, doctors discovered a heart condition that jeopardized his future in the sport. At the time, Kovalev was told he wasn’t medically fit to keep playing the game he loved.
But 16 seasons into his National Hockey League career and still going strong, Kovalev has clearly overcome that affliction. It’s children with similar cardiac issues that benefit the most from his foundation.
“Alex has a huge connection with these kids,” said Valentini, a longtime friend of Kovalev’s. “He has two kids of his own (Nikita, 7, and Ivan, 5) and he had a heart condition himself when he was younger. He went through it as a child and was told he wouldn’t be able to play sports. The next thing you know, he’s a superstar (in the NHL). “This (cause) is something that is important to Alex and his family.”
They are also extending their reach overseas. Another key part of the foundation’s mission, Valentini said, is to support the transfer of heart-related medical knowledge to hospitals in Russia. Foundation co-founder Dr. Suzanne Vobecky, a world-renowned pediatric cardiac surgeon who performs surgeries at two Montreal hospitals, headed up a team that visited a medical facility in St. Petersburg last fall. It is only the beginning of their connection.
"We're planning to give a donation to the Ottawa Senators Foundation to help some kids with cardiac problems. Alex has done a lot of work (in the past) with the Montreal Canadiens Foundation and he wants to have to same kind of interaction with the Ottawa Senators Foundation. We want to work together." - Walter Valentini
Last week, the Kovalev Foundation brought 65 youngsters to a camp in Montreal. Tomorrow’s golf tournament, which raised $160,000 last year, is expected to be another huge success. A fundraising fashion show in Montreal, organized by Kovalev’s wife, Eugenia, is planned for the fall.
In addition, Kovalev released a hockey tips and training DVD in March 2008 with 100 per cent of the proceeds – more than $120,000 to date – going to his foundation.
Kovalev’s charitable work hasn’t gone without notice. For the last two seasons, he has been a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award, which is presented annually to a player “in recognition of his commitment and service to charities in his community.”
His work won’t end when his playing days are done.
“Alex is very committed to this,” said Valentini. “His hockey career will eventually come to an end but he wants the foundation to continue. He wants longevity for it. The reason it’s called ‘Alex Kovalev and friends’ is that his goal is to get collaboration from other players and people. Eventually, he would like to see others get involved and take it on as a goal themselves.”To learn more about the Kovalev and Friends For Kids Foundation, click here.
Author: Rob Brodie