© Nathan Liewicki
Ottawa REDBLACKS quarterback Henry Burris (right) answers a question from Optimist All-Stars Night emcee Craig Hemmingway (centre) as Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Chris Getzlaf looks on. Held at the Moose Jaw Exhibition Company on Saturday evening, the event raised money for the pediatric ward of the city's new hospital.
Burris, Getzlaf highlight first Optimist All-Stars Night
Henry Burris smiled and laughed aloud as showers of ‘Hen-ry, Hen-ry’ were jokingly directed his way.
In fact, throughout parts of Saturday’s Optimist All-Stars Night, it was encouraged.
“I’m OK with fans that say, ‘Hen-ry,’” the former Saskatchewan Roughriders pivot told Optimist guests during a hot stove session.
Burris and current Rider Chris Getzlaf headlined the first of what Fiorina Hauck, president of the Friendly City Optimist Club of Moose Jaw, hopes will become an annual event.
Although Burris and Getzlaf were the headliners and main beneficiaries of hot stove style questions from emcee Craig Hemmingway and audience members, other current and former Riders were on hand at the Golden Nugget Centre.
Luc Mullinder, Ben Heenan, Chris Best and Moose Jaw’s own Levi Steinhauer joined Canadian Football League Hall of Fame inductee Don Narcisse at Saturday’s charitable event, which was only organized in the past six weeks.
“We were throwing the idea around because the (Moose Jaw) Lions Club used to do this and they weren't going to be doing it again. So we thought maybe we should pick something like this up,” Hauck told the Times-Herald. “By the time we actually got into the process of organizing things it was probably a month-and-a-half before the actual event.”
The Optimist Club’s motto is ‘Friend of Youth.’ Therefore, the club decided the money raised from Saturday’s event would be directed toward something youth-oriented.
Hauck said the pediatric ward of Moose Jaw’s new regional hospital was an easy choice.
Moose Jaw Health Foundation Executive Director Kelly McElree was also on hand for the event. He stated that when children come to a hospital, regardless of whether it's an old hospital, or a new state of the art hospital, it has the potential to be scary for both them and their parents.
“When a parent and child come to the new hospital, they will go into a private room – a very large pirate room – because families need space. And in that private room they're going to have a large sleeper chair and a large sleeper sofa because parents and children are going to want to be together,” McElree said.
“We’re going to have the best equipment in Canada in each one of those rooms, so children and parents can put their minds at ease.”
With the support of Moose Javians, thousands of dollars were raised for the pediatric ward at the All-Stars Night.
“Every gift makes a difference to a child,” McElree said.
Although he’s no longer a child, Burris received a gift from the Ottawa REDBLACKS when they recently signed him to be the first starting quarterback in franchise history.
Even though it’s been a crazy an offseason for Burris, he was not fixating on that Saturday evening. Instead, something that he’s just as passionate about was on his mind.
“To help come and give back to youth, especially here in Saskatchewan, I'll never hesitate at that opportunity,” Burris said regarding his decision to come to Moose Jaw. “That’s a passion and big part of me.
“Saskatchewan was home for me and it still feels like home for me.”
The Times-Herald caught up with Burris at an autograph session in the Friendly City earlier Saturday. To read about his crazy offseason click here.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks