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Work of the Kinsmen on display at banquet

The good work the Kinsmen Club of Moose Jaw do for the community were on display at the annual Sports Celebrity Banquet
2019-02-04 KInsmen Sports Banquet MG
Amber Balcaen, left, and John Gibbons, laugh after Gibbons answered a question during the 27th annual Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Banquet. (Matthew Gourlie photograph)

The annual Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Banquet is an entertaining evening that raises a lot of money to support all of the local Kinsmen’s initiatives in the community.

Saturday night was no exception, but it was also a chance for a number of honourees to talk about how the Kinsmen have had an impact on their lives. 

The evening began with an address from Shailynn Taylor. When she was 18 months old, Taylor was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness and atrophy. Doctors told the Taylors she had a life expectancy of 13. When she turned 19, they expected her to have two good years left., Recently, however, there's been hope for the 23-year-old. She began her first treatment with a new SMA drug called Spinraza. It is the first of its kind, but costs $60,000 per dose. Still, with the initial dose the progression of the disease and the weakening of the muscles can be stopped. With a second dose, the missing proteins begin to rebuild returning strength to the muscles.

Thanks to the support of the community, including the Kinsmen, a GoFundMe campaign started by Debbie Taylor-French and Seaborn Agencies, Hope For Shai was created and made a first treatment with doses possible.

She is recovering from the treatment, which involves a spinal injection, but the Kinsmen have also donated a standing power wheelchair to help her build strength in her legs as she works towards the goal of standing again — something she never thought would be possible.

“I am just a small example of the incredible work the Kinsmen do and the impact that they have in the community,” Taylor said. “I am forever grateful to have grown up in such a supportive community.”

It was the 27th annual banquet and is a major fundraiser for the local Kinsmen with proceeds going to support local sports, arts, culture and community initiatives.

The featured guests were NHL Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and Amber Balcaen, a race car driver from Winnipeg who is trying to breakthrough in the NASCAR circuit.

The Kinsmen Sports Achievement Award was given to two-time Olympic bobsledder Ben Coakwell. The former Saskatchewan Huskies football player sent in a video message while he prepares for the world championships, but thanked the Kinsmen for their support of his athletic career.

“In my early years in sports, the Kinsmen did a lot for myself as a young athlete,” said Coakwell who was in the Kinsmen Speed Skating Club and the Kinsmen Flying Fins and also played lacrosse, hockey, football and ran track. That broad athletic skill set helped Coakwell when he took up bobsleigh after university.

The Moose Jaw Warriors received the Discover Moose Jaw Team of the Year Award after winning the franchise’s first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s regular season champions and broke franchise records for wins (52) and points (109).

Ned Andreoni was posthumously honoured with the Moose Jaw Express’ Sports Builder Award.

The speakers had a pair of hot stove question and answer sessions.

Sittler had plenty of funny anecdotes from his days with the Leafs — some true and some less so — but also took time to talk about how everyone, famous or not, was in control of their own life and their impact on the world every day and to not take that lightly. 

He spoke of how Terry Fox inspired him — the two met in Toronto during the Marathon of Hope and Sittler gave Fox his All-Star game jersey from that season — and that it’s amazing the impact one person can make on the world.

From helping raising $1 million to open the first Ronald McDonald House in Toronto to raising awareness of the risks of colon cancer, Sittler has also tried to leaving a lasting impact well beyond his playing days.

Jamie Campbell emcee’d the event for the third straight year and said that if they invite him back next year he might as well buy property in Moose Jaw.

While the final tally of money raised won't be known for months, the live auction items raised nearly $23,000. The hat draw — in which each hat gave the bidder a 1-in-13 chance to win a five-day trip to see three live sporting events — brought in $22,300. The head table auction for dinner raised $10,100 and the  50-50 brought in $1,585.

A signed guitar from the One Horse Town concert raised $600 for the Special Olympics.

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