THUNDER BAY – Fundraising events have been hit hard in 2020.
Most have been cancelled or cut back.
Thanks to NHLer Carter Hutton, Rock 94's Kaile Wanzuk and golfer Evan DeGrazia, at least one will be returning this summer, albeit with a much different format and a significantly lower fundraising target.
Inspired by The Match II, which pitted golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson against each other, paired with NFLers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Hutton and a yet-to-be named teammate will square off against Wanzuk and his ringer, DeGrazia, in an effort to raise $25,000 for the George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation.
It’s a revamp of Hutton’s annual Hometown Heroes golf tournament at Fort William Country Club, scheduled for Aug. 6.
Hutton, the Buffalo Sabres goaltender, joked he’s not sure they’ll be able to live up to the play of Mickelson and Woods, but they plan to do their best.
“I don’t know,” Hutton said. “Maybe Evan, he can probably play like them. I don’t know about me and DJ Kaile. But we’ll have some fun and we’re kind of working on the format to make sure it’s competitive and we can have some interest.
“I’m sure there will be some fun banter out there, that’s for sure.”
The Sabres missed the NHL play-in round by mere percentage points, and while Hutton doesn’t mind having the summer off to spend time with his family, the 34-year-old said he’s glad he’s able to give back to an organization he cares deeply about.
“It’s amazing. I think each year, when I go through this scenario, especially having kids myself and just seeing the impact that it makes on the community and all the kids that it helps, every year we have a lot of the same people donating money, and obviously this year’s changed. It’s been great not to just let COVID beat us,” said Hutton, who took over hosting duties of the tournament several summers ago from former NHLer Patrick Sharp.
DeGrazia, winner of both the Mallon’s Play it Again Sport Better Ball Tournament and the AON District Open already this summer, plans to head out next month to play in four Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada sponsored events, created for Canadian golfers after the tour cancelled its 2020 campaign.
The 25-year-old said it will be a great way to tune up for the professional events, which could land him a spot in next year’s Canadian Open and up his six-event conditional Mackenzie Tour status to guaranteed in 2021.
“When they reached out to me I was super happy to do it. I was all for it and happy to be here. Just giving back to kids in general is always a good thing,” DeGrazia said.
Both the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 607 and Best Western Plus Dryden Hotel & Conference Center kick-started the fundraising efforts, each chipping in cheques of $10,000 toward the $25,000 goal.
Times may be tough, but it’s still important to give back to the community said Terry Varga, business manager with the union local.
“It’s the work George Jeffrey’s does, helping put the supports in place and helping children with developmental disabilities lead normal lives. It’s very important to LiUNA and its membership that we continue to help them,” Varga said.
It couldn’t come at a better time, said Kirsten Untinen, the charitable giving advisor with the foundation.
They’ve already had to cancel one event, so getting the golf tournament off the ground is key to their 2020 fundraising efforts.
“It will make sure that we have services and can provide that essential care that’s needed in our community.”