In a nine-hour span, the local community poured their support of more than $22,000 in donations to the Cranbrook 2019 Friendship Kootenay Ice hockey team.
“We were absolutely shocked,” said Crystal Kenyon, travel coordinator, Cranbrook Friendship hockey team.
“The whole thing is completely overwhelming. We are so grateful.”
On April 12 the team sent out a release that said after an internal financial audit they found more than $30,000 was misappropriated by a “trusted volunteer”. That was just 12 days before the team was set to travel to Japan for the Peewee International Friendship Hockey Tournament being held from April 27 to May 5.
“We wanted people to know directly from us so they had the proper information and not rumours. That’s why we chose to release the information,” said Kenyon.
The outpouring support from the community was not expected, especially to have so much donated to the club in a short time.
“We had no expectation,” said Kenyon. “We thought we were going to have to pitch in a bunch of money from parents’ pockets to deal with it. The community just wrapped their arms around us and helped.”
There were donations coming in from multiple locations all over the area to help the kids with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I know Cranbrook, Kimberley and people donated from their outlying areas. We had people coming to the home show [Kin Club of Cranbrook Outdoor and Recreation Show] on a regular basis looking for us so they could give us money. Some people gave us $5, $10 and $20, some people gave us a couple thousand. Businesses were challenging each other to get money for these kids — it was incredible,” said Kenyon.
In the tournament, there are teams attending from all over the world, but there is only one other Canadian team, the 2019 Aldergrove Friendship Hockey Team, which chipped in $2,500 when they found out about the Cranbrook club.
“They saw what was going on and they said ‘we know how hard it is to fundraise all of this money,’” said Kenyon, noting the team had fundraised more than $100,000 in 18 months for the trip.
There are 17 athletes that are set to go on the trip to Japan, and because of all the support, they will be able to go and do everything that was planned.
“We have let the kids know what is going on, and the unfortunate situation that has happened,” said Kenyon.
“But, I don’t think kids realize the full impact because they are 11 and 12-year-old kids. That’s the part we are trying to make sure of this unfortunate situation we are protecting all of the kids on the team and making sure they see the positives about this rather than having a negative shadow over our program because the program is an amazing opportunity.”
Kenyon notes they are still counting all the donations they received so no final total was announced.
“We think we have at least $25,000,” she said. “It has been absolutely amazing.”
The team said on Friday that they have notified the RCMP and the investigation is being taken over by the authorities.