Cowboys give bucks, time to help children
Foothills: Close to $100,000 raised for Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
The guys riding bulls or grabbing the reins to control four galloping thoroughbreds have a rough-and-tumble image.
However, a former Calgary Flame will tell you bull riders and chuckwagon drivers have a heart of gold when it comes to helping children who are victims of sexual abuse.
“Society looks at these men as tough people and to have them support an issue that people feel if you come forward, you are weak,” said Sheldon Kennedy of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. “To have these guys help was incredible”
Close to $100,000 was raised for the centre through the Ranchman’s Renegade Bullbustin’ event on July 3 ($75,000) and chuckwagon driver Rae Croteau Jr. contributed $15,000 during his efforts at the Calgary Stampede July 4-13.
When Okotoks’ Cody Snyder, the organizer for the Bull Bustin’ competition, saw an opportunity to help the centre, he jumped on it quicker than a bullfighter stepping into save a cowboy.
“We added an extra day — it was specifically the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre Day,” Snyder said. “I have got to know Sheldon really well and I was looking for something to support his advocacy centre. It turned out to be a very successful event.”
Kennedy, an MD of Foothills resident, made headlines when he came forward in the mid 1990s and told of being sexually abused by his former WHL coach Graham James. Kennedy has been an advocate for sexual victims ever since, receiving the Order of Canada in 2012.
“I believe in what Sheldon is doing,” Snyder said. “Sheldon is so passionate about raising the awareness and the issues out there — when he goes to the centre, he pays for his own parking.
Every money that is raised, I know it is going to the centre.”
The centre, located on the fourth floor of the Calgary Child Development Centre, is a unique partnership between Alberta Child and Family Services, Calgary Police Services, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Justice.
The centre has social workers, clinical psychologists, therapists and police officers all under one roof allowing them to collaborate with one another in their investigations.
Shortly after the Bull Bustin’ fundraiser, Croteau Jr. decided to get on board through the Bucks 4 Chucks program.
The campaign had a dollar contributed by Croteau’s Stampede sponsor, the Tomco Group, for every time the Bucks 4 Chucks photo was tweeted up to $10,000. That amount was upped to $15,000 as Kennedy himself chipped in a $1,000. The campaign was enhanced by Croteau finishing second in the Stampede’s Dash for Cash $100,000 final.
Kennedy said he was impressed when shortly after making the commitment, Croteau Jr., some of his sponsors and outriders took a tour of the centre.
The chuckwagon driver said it was the right thing to do.
“I just thought if I was going to promote it, I better know about it,” Croteau Jr. said Thursday after the High River chuckwagon races. “I needed to know what they are up against and meet the people who are doing it and helping people.”
The experience had an effect on the father of two children.
“My daughters are nine and six years old and it was emotional to hear and see the bad things that can happen to people,” Croteau Jr. said. “The awareness we raised through the social media campaign went right across the province and the nation… It hit me in the right place.”
Kennedy said the Chucks 4 Bucks campaign took off at warp speed.
“The Washington Capitals were tweeting, the Calgary Flames were tweeting, I believe William Shatner had a tweet,” Kennedy said with a laugh.
The centre received further attention when many of the cowboys, including Cayley’s barebacker Matt Lait, wore “Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre” crests on their vest while competing in the rodeo at the Stampede.
For more information about the centre go to sheldonkennedycac.ca