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Hockey equipment drive helps to support Indigenous youth with largest collection yet

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Saturday's Indigenous Hockey Equipment Drive was one of its largest collections of the year, as the campaign seeks to continue making hockey gear more accessible for indigenous communities across the province.

What started as a collection of eight hockey bags and 20 sticks donated to Beausoleil First Nation in 2015 has become a nationwide endeavour.

"From there, every year it doubled," said Graham McWaters, the founder of the Indigenous Hockey Equipment Drive.

McWaters estimates that the campaign now gathers 1,000 hockey bags and 2,000 hockey sticks every year for 25 to 35 First Nation communities in Canada. It strives to allow indigenous youth to play hockey even if they cannot afford to do so.

"I'm going to guess that an excess of 5,000 kids have been helped from this program," McWaters added.

The Richmond Hill hockey dad founded the Indigenous Hockey Equipment Drive with the help of fellow hockey parent Rosemarie McKenzie.

"They get to pick the equipment out that fits them, and they get to go to their community rinks or join their community teams," said McKenzie, describing how the recipients react upon receiving their gear. "It's like Christmas."

Thanks to the support of community partners and despite an unwanted taste of wintery weather, Saturday's equipment drive in Barrie collected more than 50 donated hockey bags and 100 donated hockey sticks.

Donated sticks being stored at Saturday’s Indigenous Hockey Equipment Drive in Barrie on April 20, 2024 (Mike Lang/CTV News).

Donors drove by throughout the day to drop off their equipment, which included helmets, gloves, shin pads and shoulder pads. McWaters and other volunteers then organized the equipment accordingly into large storage bins, where it will remain until reaching its recipients.

"There's nothing better than putting somebody out on a pair of skates with a stick," McWaters concluded.

Some of the seven storage bins worth of hockey equipment will be delivered to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec next week. The rest will be delivered to Indigenous communities across the province in the fall. 

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