The Sunday immediately prior to Thanksgiving holds special meaning for Richmond’s hockey community.
Since the first Sweep the Streets in 2010, local minor hockey players have made it their annual mission to give back by collecting garbage throughout Steveston.
Coinciding each year with the Richmond Jets’ Icebreaker rep tournament, players and other volunteers traditionally gather at Garry Point Park before embarking on their trek. Fuelling up on Tim Hortons coffee, hot chocolate and Timbits, the positive energy and team spirit is infectious. But it’s the sense of accomplishment and pride afterwards that prevails.
“Every year we’ve been a part of Sweep the Streets I’ve noticed young teammates work together for something more important than goals and assists,” says Peewee A5 coach Jim Sutherland. “They help clean up an area of their city, take pride in that accomplishment, and (share) a few laughs throughout the morning.”
It’s the kind of bonding experience teams at all levels strive to achieve, recognizing the intrinsic values that such an experience delivers.
Now a member of the Richmond Jets board of directors, Cody Kusch was a vice-president at Seafair (which last spring merged with Richmond Minor to form the new Jets hockey association) when he presented the idea of a community clean-up. The response of his peers was overwhelmingly positive, and eight years later support for the event continues to grow.
It’s clear from their comments that the players are equally stoked to participate.
“I really enjoy the Sweep the Streets event every year because I get to do something away from the rink with my teammates,” says Nathan, one of 30 members of Sutherland’s Peewee A5 team to participate this year. “I like that we are cleaning up the city we live in, and helping out on a weekend where everyone should look at ways of giving back.”
Players from the Jets’ Atom C1 were also left with fond memories.
“I had fun walking through Steveston, helping pick up garbage with my friends,” says Ben.
Adds Carson: “My favourite part of Sweep the Streets was working as a team to give back to our community. And it was fun.”
Tommy liked finding “huge amounts of garbage” and seeing his efforts help win a prize for the team. The Atom C1 team won the second-place team prize for having 23 people brave pouring rain (this was the first year the weather was inclement) to attend the event.
Atom coach Sean O’Neill takes his family and team to the event each year.
“It’s a great way for the association to come together, and it’s important for us to support the community that supports us. Sweep the Streets is just one of the ways we do this.”
Steveston Smiles, a local dentistry whose mantra is “Keep Your Smile in Shape,” has a long history of supporting the community. Led by Dr. Doug Nielsen, who founded Steveston Smiles in the early 1970s, the company has stepped up to sponsor Sweep the Streets, with Nielsen and colleagues setting up a tent at Garry Point Park this year. Steveston Smiles also provided all attendees with new toothbrushes and other dental giveaways, along with providing funding to the association for programming.
Seeing the mass of smiles elicited the same from Sweep the Streets organizer Kusch, who is already anxiously awaiting the 2019 event.
“This is definitely the busiest weekend for the Richmond Jets both on and off the ice, (hosting) our first rep tournament of the year and one of biggest community events of the year. And though it rained all day, we still had about 90 people show up to help clean up Steveston. Well done everyone.”