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Hockey heroes help sidelined Vernon teammate

Piranha’s fundraiser for Ray Preikschas a sellout

Kevin Mitchell

For The Morning Star

Thanks to his Vernon Piranha hockey club teammates and friends, Ray Preikschas can buy groceries, put gas in his tank and pay some bills for the next few months.

The Piranhas, who play every Sunday night at the Okanagan Training Rink, raised $10,500 with a fundraising dinner, dance and silent auction Friday, March 22 at the Elks Lodge.

Preikschas, a self-employed arborist with no medical insurance, suffered a life-threatening heart attack seven days before Christmas. He was rushed to Kelowna General Hospital where he underwent a six-hour open heart surgery and a vascular bypass surgery.

The six-foot-four-inch tall gentle giant was highly grateful for the fundraiser which saw a sellout crowd of 150 enjoy a mouth-watering brisket cooked for 27 hours by Taylor Belanger and Tony Smith (with much of the food donated by Butcher Boys).

They also listened to some area bands while buying silent action items.

“It was overwhelming and pretty cool,” said the fun-loving Preikschas. “I gotta hand it to them. I didn’t know they liked me that much. It (money raised) should keep me going for a while and keep me out of trouble.”

Preikschas, affectionately known as Big Red and The Viking, suffered nerve damage in his arm so his recovery will be longer than normal. His wife Victoria is his No 1 fan.

“The fundraiser was very successful, but it was unfortunate Groovalicious wasn’t able to play a note due to the power outage (around midnight),” said organizer Eli Johnson. “They play at Marten Brew Pub on April 20.”

Johnson praised Gary Woitzik of the Sunday night Chiefs for setting up the website and silent auction through his marketing company.

Chris Swales put in the winning bid of $2,250 for an autographed home white Connor McDavid jersey. He beat out local dentist Mark Wasylyk, who was 60 seconds behind Swales with a bid of $2,500. Swales also fetched a Canucks’ road blue Nils Hoglander jersey and 2002 Olympic sweater worn by Ed Jovanoski.

“Thanks to everyone,” said Johnson. “Piranhas can debone an animal in minutes and this proved that our team name is appropriate given the level of commitment. Thanks to our entire team for stepping up.”

Greg Thalheimer of the Chiefs donated the McDavid jersey and a pair of Hoglander jerseys. He also bid on a number of auction items on his 60th birthday.

READ MORE: Funds raised for Vernon arborists recovering from serious heart condition

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