Brittany Zacerkowny is thrilled to be back in the superhero business. Well, the Super Mario business, to be precise.
An assistant advisor with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the NOJHL since last year, Zacerkowny also worked alongside owner Mark Burgess and senior adviser Blaine Smith as part of the Sudbury Wolves organization. In 2016, she helped that team design its first superhero-themed jersey, alongside current Wolves marketing manager Miranda Swain-Boivin, to be auctioned off for Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer.
That inaugural event raised $10,000 for NOFCC and the Wolves have continued to hold Superhero Night, supporting various charities, on an annual basis.
“When Mark sold the Wolves, I was a little bit devastated, because we could no longer do that,” recalled Zacerkowny, during a press conference held at Cousin Vinny’s in Chelmsford on Thursday. “But last year, he brought the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, so we’re able to continue the special themed jerseys. Mark is big on giving back to the community, so I’m very excited to be a part of this again.”
The Canadians will don Super Mario-themed jerseys for their Feb. 27 home game against the Blind River Beavers, which could decide first place in the NOJHL West Division. During the contest, fans will be able to bid on the jerseys, with final bids taking place at the start of the third period. Winners will receive their jerseys immediately after the contest, presented by the respective players, and the proceeds will be donated to NOFCC.
“I think they’re pretty cool,” smiled Canadians forward Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, modelling one of the jerseys for those who attended the presser on Thursday. “I mean, with Super Mario, you can’t go wrong. He’s not really a superhero, so a little different, but still pretty cool.”
Dayna Caruso is executive director for NOFCC, a volunteer-based organization whose aim is to provide “hope, support, advocacy and education to families who have a child with cancer,” including those with a child on active treatment, those off treatment or receiving follow-up care, and bereaved families. Once contacted by Zacerkowny, Caruso was only to happy to help organize another game-night fundraiser.
“Unfortunately for the majority of families in our communities across the North, they have to travel for treatment, to places like Ottawa, Toronto, London, or sometimes even further into the States,” Caruso said. “The typical story is that a family is away for anywhere from six months to three years and NOFCC helps to alleviate the financial and emotional burden that these families face through financial assistance and reimbursement programs for the costs that they experience, because when kids get sick, parents don’t work, right? We help fill the gap that our government doesn’t fill.”
NOFCC has 23 programs and services, available to families from the Parry Sound-Muskoka to the Manitoba border. Caruso said the organization assists some 200 families annually, and roughly 40 at a time, at a cost of between $20,000 and $30,000 per month, with no government funding and only two staff members — making fundraisers like the Canadians’ upcoming game more than welcome.
“We’re very pleased that you chose us again to receive those funds and honoured to be part of your very first jersey night here with the Canadians,” Caruso said.
NOFCC is to host a 50-50 draw at the game and proceeds from the sale of beer and win will also be donated to the charity.
Dokis-Dupuis, a Greater Sudburian and Rayside’s alternate captain, certainly approves of those initiatives. He sees support for the community as an important part of his team’s identity, and one that will build character in its players.
“It’s pretty cool that we get to wear different jerseys for the one game and it’s great that it’s going to a great cause, because those children always need the extra help and it’s great for the families,” Dokis-Dupuis said. “It’s just a very cool experience to be a part of.”
Start time at Chelmsford Arena is 7 p.m. Several tickets are still available for the game, at a cost of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. Children 7 and younger will be admitted free.
The Canadians are affiliates of the Sudbury Wolves. Several prospects for that team, as well as others in the OHL, are on the Rayside roster.