Ottawa Jazz after the game. Front: Sam Graham, Corey Smith, Richard Perrin, Ryan Lovie. Back: Emilie Mondor, coach Annie Goodchild, Dax Grill.
Ottawa Jazz after the game. Front: Sam Graham, Corey Smith, Richard Perrin, Ryan Lovie. Back: Emilie Mondor, coach Annie Goodchild, Dax Grill.

By Breanna Adams

The sound of fans cheering on their loved ones on the court filled the gymnasium at Algonquin Pembroke campus for the wheelchair basketball fundraiser on Feb. 7.

All donations earned from those at the game are directly for the Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH) MRI fund.

“People donate what they want, there is no set rate,” said Garland Wong, the event coordinator as well as an employee at the PRH.

Three organizers, including Wong, were named who were involved in making this night a reality. Cemmel Graham, an employee at PRH and Sam Graham, a social service worker student at Pembroke.

Before the game began the opposing teams warmed up together by throwing the ball at the hoops and joking around with each other with an air of enjoyment. There was no rivalry and it was clear that everyone there was there for the sole purpose of having a good time.

The stands were not large, but they were full. Chairs were put out along the sides of the court for people to sit and enjoy the game as they laughed along with the players as they missed the ball, fell out of their chairs or “forgot” the rules of the game. All was in good humour this night.

Four teams competed at the game. The Pembroke Lumber Kings junior A hockey team for the first quarter, Pembroke City Councillors for the second, Algonquin faculty for third and the PRH faculty for the fourth and final quarter. All four teams played against Ottawa Jazz, the team who was putting on the fundraiser.

“Last year it was a fundraiser to raise money for [Ottawa Jazz],” said Graham, a 19-year-old player of the team. “We raised over $1,000 and the stands were packed.”

For the entirety of the game Wong gave the commentary as Ottawa Jazz played team after team. He joked with those in the stands as well with the players. Reminding the Pembroke Lumber Kings that they weren’t playing hockey this time, giving the ball to the team opposing Ottawa Jazz when it was unfair to do so, though it was all in good spirit.

Surprises were there for each quarter. The first player to get a basket against Ottawa Jazz, who was team captain Sam Gleason, got whip cream in the face in the first quarter.

During the second quarter the fire department had to do a “rim check” on the baskets which turned out to be an advantage for the city councillors, helping them get baskets as well as knocking the ball out when Ottawa Jazz tried to shoot.

Third quarter brought the police to “arrest” Ottawa Jazz members to help out the Algonquin faculty. The final quarter, against the PRH faculty brought confetti.

At half-time a 50/50 draw was held which brought in even more donations.

“It’s a great fundraiser,” said Pembroke Mayor Ed Jacyno, who played with the city councillors. “There’s a [greater] appreciation for people in wheelchairs.”

Mayor Jacyno said he asked city council to support the MRI through ticket sales. City council raised $1,900 for the fund.

“Charity begins at home,” said Jacyno. He predicts the MRI project is coming to a conclusion soon.

After the game came to an end, thanks were given for all those who participated and helped make the game happen. Finally it was announced that approximately $2,250 was raised that night causing the crowds to cheer. Those in the stands went to congratulate the players.

Nobody cared what the scores were, because it wasn’t about winning that night, it was about bringing people together to get something greater out of it, something that would benefit the community more.

“Disability can be seen as a bad thing,” said Graham. “This is a chance to show what [we] can do.”