Riders alumni helping minor football

Katie Brickman
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Donation will help build and update playing facilities

Moose Jaw Minor Football received some big time support.

Riley Seaborn from the Riders, middle, tries to out-run Lorgan Widenmaier, left, and Campbell Andrews from the Bombers in Moose Jaw Minor Football Pee Wee action.

Not only did the Saskatchewan Roughriders Alumni Association donate $5,000 to the grassroots program, they bought attention to one of their major problems.

“It is awesome that we are getting the exposure, but the support means more than anything,” said MariLynn Buchholz, a volunteer with Moose Jaw Minor Football. “It gets the word out to the community that we have this going on.”

For 40 years, the organization has run football programs for kids in Moose Jaw.

Over that span, the kids used old equipment and saw numbers drop. Without the support of some dedicated volunteers, the organization would have collapsed.

Now with growing numbers and interest in football from both boys and girls, there is a concern with where the teams practice in the city  — in outdoor hockey rinks.

“Over the year, and I have been involved for 17 years now, we will see more injuries on the practice field than we will ever see in a game,” said Buchholz. “That is because of the boards and the lack of space. The hard packed earth leads to repetitive strain. We are learning more about these injuries all the time.”

On Wednesday, representatives from the Riders alumni presented a cheque to Moose Jaw Minor Football to help build and update their playing facilities.

The donation was made possible by proceeds from the first Whisky and Wine event that was held at Grant Hall in 2013.

“The initiative of the alumni is to get more in touch with communities. There is so much support for Rider Nation throughout the province,” said Andrea Hoffman, event coordinator for Whiskey and Wine. “Last year, the alumni wanted to start spreading out around the province to say thank you to all of the communities that support them. In the process, they are raising money to give back to the communities that they go to, to help youth programs.”

The Alumni Association reached out to Buchholz and minor football after hearing the plight of their practice facilities.

“The kids are training on ground that I couldn’t imagine playing football on with the injuries and the wear and tear on their bodies … the alumni wanted to do something about that,” said Hoffman. “It was a great partnership for the alumni program.”

CFL Hall of Famer, George Reed was on hand to help with the announcement and he voiced how important it was to help grassroot initiatives in communities like Moose Jaw.

“I think it is very important that you try and give back and create an atmosphere that young people want to get into the game and learn how to play it properly,” said Reed. “Everyone won’t be a professional player, but everyone can enjoy themselves.”

The first Whiskey and Wine night was held in November 2013 at Grant Hall and with how successful that event was there is a second night planned for Oct. 10.

“The success of last year’s event was big and our goal is to make it annual,” said Hoffman. “We want to give back to the community here by investing in youth programs.”

This is just the first hurdle for the minor football organization, as they still have more work that needs to be done before they put shovels into the ground for new practice fields.

The plan is to build the fields down in Hamilton Flats where the rugby fields are now.

They have two phases planned — rejuvenating the two existing fields, including new irrigation, new sod, team lock ups for equipment, uprights and light posts and power brought to the site and then build two additional fields.

The hope is to have four full sized fields so that eight teams can practice at the same time.

“This is going to be long-term because it is a major project,” said Buchholz. “We are a small organization, but we will get there.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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