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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Play for a Cure raises over $390,000


by Garrett Fodor

After more than two-years, local hockey players were able to lace-up their skates and line-up alongside some NHL greats to support a local cause.

  This past weekend, after more than two-years away from the ice, the “Play for a Cure” hockey tournament returned to Windsor-Essex. The event was created as a fundraiser for the Cancer Research Collaboration Fund in 2019, designed to raise money to help fund cancer research locally. 

  Jeff Casey, with his wife Diletta, along with Harvey and Elaine Snaden, came together to create the Cancer Research Collaboration Fund. Casey said as a cancer survivor of 13-years, he wanted to find a way to raise money and promote cancer research locally, noting without the cancer research, he would not be alive today.

  Originally, Casey noted, the fundraiser was planned to be a hockey tournament, but took it one step further.

  “I was fortunate enough to attend Mario Lemieux’s fantasy camp, where there’s an opportunity to have experiences with him and other NHL greats, play hockey, but also raise money for cancer research and care. We went to the hospital, met with the cancer researchers there and saw the Mario Lemieux Foundation wing there and it was a truly motivating experience,” Casey recalled.

  The first edition of the pro-am tournament launched in 2019. This year’s edition of the tournament featured 13 games, including the all-star game, pairing up the tournament’s top fundraisers along with retired NHL alumni, including Rick Vaive, Paul Coffey, and Derian Hatcher.

  Prior to the event, participants were able to attend a draft party held at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts. The event was emceed by Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean and featured a hot stove discussion panel with Dr. Lisa Porter, Executive Director for WE-SPARK health institute, and Dr. Caroline Hamm, a medical oncologist and cancer researcher, along with Casey.

  “We’re trying to push this forward to ensure that the leaders of our community understand what our community needs from a cancer survivor and a community’s perspective,” Casey commented. “Everyone has been affected by cancer and all the people involved in the event are doing something about it. This is a 100 per cent grassroots organization, run by volunteers with all money going to the charity. We’re just trying to create better outcomes for our local patients.”

  Prior to the all-star game, Casey featured Jack Costard as the flag bearer for the opening ceremony. Casey said Costard lost his father, who was Casey’s friend, to cancer two-years ago.

  “While it never gets easier losing someone to cancer, I’m happy they got to be involved and share the moment as they look to prevent things like that from happening,” Casey said.

Following the conclusion of the all-star game Friday, Casey noted they are still processing how much money was raised, but said the amount was over $390,000. Combined, the total raised through the two editions of the tournament is over $650,000.

  The event could not have been made possible without the generous support for the community, including sponsorships from WFCU Credit Union, Lynda Casey, and St. Clair College and Alumni Association, among others. Casey added he is grateful for the team of volunteers who helped to organize and arrange the tournament, with more than 100 lending a hand over the two-days the fundraiser took place. 

  After missing the last two-years due to COVID-19, Casey was excited to see everyone return to the ice and enjoy the tournament. As he wrapped up the tournament, Casey noted he is already in the planning process for the 2023 edition of the event and hopes to have it continue to grow. 

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