Dad of deaf son with cerebral palsy builds rink for charity
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PORTUGAL COVE, N.L. - A Newfoundland father's backyard hockey rink is a labour of love that is raising funds for children's charities while drawing attention from around the world.
Todd Churchill built the detailed ice surface, about a quarter of the size of an NHL rink, with painted boards, lines and face-off circles.
He did it for Carter, his almost two-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and is deaf.
Churchill spent about $10,000 of his own cash and more than six months building the rink in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, a community near St. John's.
The full-time engineer says he now rents it out in exchange for donations that go 100 per cent to charities for children. They include local chapters of Easter Seals, Rainbow Riders and the Mazol Shriners. Details of his campaign can be seen at www.reasonfortherink.com.
Churchill says the rink has so far raised about $30,000 and that emails of support have arrived from across the globe.
"It's just tremendous," he said Saturday before another fundraising tournament, this one involving four companies working on the Hebron offshore oil project.
"I've gotten responses from all over the world and it's really hard to keep on top of emails right now. People are wanting to help or donate.
"I've had so many companies just come onboard."
Churchill's wife Kimberly said the support has been especially rewarding after all the work he has done on his own.
"I'm extremely proud of my husband for all the time and effort that he has put into this. It has been certainly a labour of love, that's for sure."
Churchill is regularly up until the wee hours of the morning clearing snow, flooding and maintaining the rink, she said.
"But it's been actually wonderful because we only anticipated ever raising about $7,000 and of course now ... we're around $30,000."
As the couple spoke, Carter, a happy child who smiled and watched his three-year-old brother Hunter move around the living room, sat in his mother's lap. She said it's not yet clear, as he continues to grow and develop, whether he'll walk or speak.
"It's all about trying to raise awareness and promote the charities that our son Carter's involved in," she said of the rink that's getting so much attention.
Footage from one of the fundraising games will be seen Feb. 9 on CBC-TV's Hockey Day in Canada.
Geoff Parker, an ExxonMobil Canada vice-president and senior project manager for the Hebron development, took part in a ceremonial puck drop Saturday.
"All of our project team members like to be part of the community that they're living and working in," he said. "And this is just such a great way to get involved with the local community and supporting such a good cause at the same time."