The Campbell River Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada holds a successful fundraising golf tournament, dinner and auction every year and a major part of that success has been due to its patron, retired hockey star Rod Brind’Amour.
Over 20 years the Rod Brind’Amour Golf Classic raised $1.5 million for the search for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.
Then last year, Brind’Amour himself announced that the young player who had been accompanying him to the annual event for the last five years had signed on as co-patron of the successful community event. That meant a name change was in order and it was announced at last year’s golf classic that it would henceforth be known as the Rod Brind’Amour/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Golf Classic, Dinner and Auction.
“Last year before the event, Rod came to the committee,” said Chris Black, an organizing committee member, longtime activist for cystic fibrosis and a former executive of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. “It was his idea to ask Ryan if he would consider lending his name to the event.”
Right from the start nearly 21 years ago, Brind’Amour has wanted it to be a classy event that made sure every penny raised went directly into Cystic Fibrosis research and support for patients. But such is Brind’Amour’s concern for the event that he wanted to ensure it continued to be a success and that meant evaluating what could make it better. In doing that, Brind’Amour, now a few years removed from his playing days, was obviously looking to the future and concluded that the event needed some new blood. He felt the event needed a new name associated with it that would keep it fresh in the public eye and maintain its relevance to a new generation.
Burnaby’s Nugent-Hopkins burst into the National Hockey League as a highly touted rookie in the 2011-2012 season. He has since become a young star in the game. But it was his mom that proved to be a connection to Brind’Amour, the retired hockey star and member of the Carolina Hurricanes coaching staff.
Frankie Hester, a volunteer with the Brind’Amour golf classic lives in Vancouver and comes up here every year to help with the event. That volunteer knows Nugent-Hopkins’ mother Deb and admires Brind’Amour and what he does for CF. Nugent-Hopkins’ mother knew what a great event the golf classic is and what a wonderful job Brind’Amour does with it each year and how passionate and committed he is to the event.
“And so Deb, she thought that would be a nice thing for Ryan to become involved in,” Black said. Being from Burnaby, Campbell River was close to Nugent-Hopkins’ summer home and so the committee asked the Nugent-Hopkins if Ryan would like to get involved. “I think it’s really thanks to Deb that she encouraged him to become involved,” Black said.
So Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (RNH, as he’s often nicknamed) attended that first year and met with young people with cystic fibrosis and had a really good time with Brind’Amour.
“They just really seemed to connect,” Black said. Another thing that helped Nugent-Hopkins decide to get involved was the welcome he received from the community.
“I think our community really was happy to see him and really opened their arms to him. It was ‘Welcome Ryan and we’re so happy you came,’” Black said.
Since then Nugent-Hopkins has come back every year and last year it was decided to approach him. Brind’Amour wanted the event to keep the strong support from the community going and one way to do that is to have new blood.
“It was important to him, anyway, that we have a hockey player who is actually playing because he feels there’s a little bit more interest,” Black said. “We believe there’s a lot of interest and support in this community just for Rod because of who he is but in his mind he just felt it was a good thing and he really liked what Ryan was doing and the fact that Ryan was pretty committed.”
Nugent-Hopkins is committed to the event now and continues to support Cystic Fibrosis Canada by doing an event for the Edmonton chapter during his hockey season. He has has met some young people with CF there and developed some relationships with them, especially the teenage boys who really look to him as a role model.
“Sometimes that’s the stage when they start having some difficulty complying with their medication routine and their physio routine,” Black said. “Ryan’s been really encouraging to the kids to keep at it, keep working hard, stay healthy and so he’s been a little bit of an inspiration. That’s often a stage where their health starts to decline anyway. It’s even more important for them to keep going.”
Kids at that age often find it hard to keep going because they don’t feel they’re getting any better and they’re often having to increase their medications.
“Because that’s what CF is, it just gets worse and worse,” Black said.
Once known as a childhood illness because sufferers rarely lived into adulthood, CF now has more adult patients in Canada than children. But there is still further to go.
“I didn’t think we’d still be here doing this 20 years later,” Black’s daughter Kim Wood said during her address to last year’s banquet. “I thought we’d have a cure.”
And that’s what the Rod Brind’Amour/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Golf Classic, Dinner and Auction’s goal is to help find a cure.
This year’s event is on June 18 with the golf at Storey Creek and the dinner and auction at the Sportsplex. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 each and available by calling Bev, 250-276-8600. Dinner is catered buy Quay West Kitchen and Catering. The M.C. will be Bruce Williams and the auctioneer is Jason Fitzgerald.
But because it now has new blood in the form of a new co-patron, it needed a new name – the Rod Brind’Amour/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Golf Classic, Dinner and Auction.
It’s one of the biggest fundraising success stories in Campbell River and it all began 21 years ago with a little girl asking the big hockey star if he could help out his home town’s new fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research. Wood (née Black) was a young girl struggling with cystic fibrosis, a disease that killed people by the time they were in their early 20s. The organizers of the then-new golf tournament were bandying about names of celebrities that could attach their names to the event and Campbell Riverite Brind’Amour’s name came up. The plucky, 12-year-old Wood said she would contact the player and drafted up a letter sent to him care of his team at the time, the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Back then I was a younger kid in the NHL,” Brind’Amour recalled last year. “I never really viewed myself as a role model.” Brind’Amour has been linked with the tournament ever since and the success of the event has been phenomenal. Last year’s event alone raised $93,000.
Brind’Amour set the standard back in 1995, agreeing to sign on as long as it was a classy affair and that all the money go towards fighting the disease. Brind’Amour has attended every year and covers all his travel expenses himself.
Paralleling the success of the Campbell River fundraiser has been the success in the medical profession in improving the longevity of individuals living with the disease.
Brind’Amour has always been modest about his contribution but his support has been unwavering. He always parks himself at the 17th hole – 17 was his sweater number during his playing days – and greets each and every golfer that comes through. They get to talk to him and have a picture taken with him.
He frequently invites his hockey friends to attend the event. Nugent-Hopkins started attending five years ago and the two joined each group at the tee box of Storey Creek’s signature 17th hole last year, posing for team photos and lending their tee shots to the best-ball play.
At last year’s banquet, it was announced that Nugent-Hopkins had agreed to take on a larger role with the event.
“I’m not playing anymore, and I think it’s time for some new blood,” Brind’Amour said.
“Ryan deserves a big hand,” Brind’Amour told the banquet last year. The news was greeted with a standing ovation. “But my name’s still going on the top!”
Indeed, Brind’Amour has no intention of walking away from the event. “He is as committed as ever,” Black said.