A Shuswap hockey family received help replacing sports gear lost to wildfire.
Lori-Ann and Reece Williams have been steadfast volunteers with Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association (SAMHA) for years, and when the family, including four hockey-playing kids, lost everything in the Bush Creek East wildfire, the organization knew it had to step up to help.
After years with SAMHA, the family moved to Chase where they continued to play and volunteer with the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association as well as Chase’s minor hockey program.
Lori-Ann was one of the recipients of the 2021/2022 season’s BC Hockey Fred Heslop Minor Hockey Award, recognizing those who make significant contributions to an organization’s teams and communities. She is a Sorrento preschool teacher in Sorrento and has been busy making last-minute classroom preparations, she said.
All four of the Williams children lost their hockey equipment in the fire, and tryouts were about to begin in the region when the family was still adjusting to the devastation of the fire . Roy Sakaki, SAMHA administrator known locally as Mr. Hockey, quickly reached out to local sponsors and supporters as soon as he heard, and gathered donations from all across the association, said SAMHA.
“Lori-Ann has been an amazing volunteer for SAMHA, so many from our board stepped up,” said Cindy Cameron-Cherry, SAMHA’s junior division director of hockey operations. “We were blown away at the generosity.”
Ian Gray, Salmon Arm GM owner and general manager, heard the news and instantly offered to cover the costs of a hockey gear shopping spree for the family, he said.
“I really never even had to think about it,” said Gray. “I can’t imagine all the things that these families are dealing with, and this seems like a small token.”
Salmon Arm GM has always been a proud sponsor of local hockey at all levels, said Gray, and it’s because he and his employees have always played and loved the game.
“It seems like a lifetime ago that I got new hockey equipment, every once in a while when playing with old timers you go out and get one new piece, it kind of puts a light in your heart,” Gray said. “To be able to give these people back what might resemble a normal evening… it’s heartwarming, it’s immeasurable.”
“My family always looks forward to hockey season starting every year,” said Lori-Ann. “We actually went though all our kids’ gear at the beginning of August and we were all suited up.”
The Williams children are going into Chase U18, Salmon Arm U18 Female, Chase U13 and U11 teams this year, possible because of the hockey gear replacement.
“Our community from Chase to the North Shuswap to Salmon Arm has been amazing and so supportive,” said Lori-Ann. “We live in an area where people care. Even people we have never met are reaching out to us.”
The Williams’ are still looking for a rental home in the Chase school district, and Lori-Ann said she is hopeful something will come up before winter as the RV they are living in is getting tight, but they are making the best of the situation.
“It feels like we have all of the Shuswap looking for us right now. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank everyone involved who helped keep our children on the ice.”
The family shopped at Salmon Arm’s SportChek location on Friday, Sept. 1, outfitting all four children for the upcoming hockey season.