Karen Head and Angela Braun have pledged to help rescue a mother, her two daughters, and their eight-year-old boy from persecution and violence.
Spearheaded by the two Thorold women and their families, a charity hockey game was held in the Thorold Arena Thursday night.
To date, the group has raised $25,000 of its $35,000 goal; the cost required by the Canadian government to bring the family to safety.
“We have to raise that by the beginning of August,” stated Braun, “or that family will not be able to come. What broke my heart is that Moses—the eight-year-old—has never been to school. He’s been hiding in Thailand for four years.”
She added that the Thorold Community Credit Union on Front Street is accepting donations for the family, on behalf of “people who can’t attend an event.”
Braun explained the rescue effort launched two months ago, “with a homemade perogy fundraiser, made by ladies in a church basement,” which raised $2,000. A subsequent trivia night raised $5,700 and a magic show added another $5,700 to the total.
“The response has been crazy. It’s really nice a lot of young people volunteered to help,” she added, naming Alex Rotundo, who acted as announcer at the hockey game, and Mike Bolibruck and Peter DiPaolo, who volunteered to referee. Her son Joe drove from McMaster University for the evening to play guitar and sing harmony with his sister, Anne, entertaining spectators in the arena lobby who purchased raffle and 50/50 tickets to support the cause.
“Young people seem to be open to the message that Canada includes everyone and people are free to have their own religion,” said Braun. “The benefit is we brought our community together to fight for those values.”
Father Brian Bevan, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Merritton, appeared as head of the church’s refugee committee.
“For the last several months, we’ve been raising money at our church,” he told the crowd. “This is one of our major fundraisers, and there is so much support.”
Mayor Terry Ugulini acknowledged Coun. John Kenny, who played on the Thorold Mounts, saying, “It’s initiatives like this that make Thorold the great city it is.”
Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey thanked the community for recognizing “how important it is to raise money to help people make a home here in Canada,” and for upholding the “Canadian values” of caring. “Thanks to St. Patrick’s for bringing these families here to our great country.”
Thorold residents Lauren Head and Marina LaFratta sang the national anthem before Bevan, Badawey and Ugulini dropped the puck.
In addition to covering the cost of the ice rental, the Thorold Mounts participated in the charity event by playing two games against an elite team of TAAA alumni and coaches. The Mounts won both games, by scores of 5-1 and 5-2.
Boxes of food items from Big Red Markets, Buffalo Sabres tickets and a host of other donated prizes lined the raffle table.
Paul Meaney, the arena’s new canteen manager, donated 50 per cent of the evening’s proceeds to the cause.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said Head; “a whole collective of amazing people—friends, family, community—coming together to support this family.”