He loved Calabogie and hockey, and now his considerable contributions will be remembered at one of Calabogie’s most treasured community hubs.
Greater Madawaska council has approved the renaming of the Calabogie Outdoor Rink to Dan O’Neill Arena after the late philanthropist Dan O’Neill, who passed away due to a heart attack in May this year.
“Dan O’Neill has been instrumental in getting us going on building the roof (of the arena) and has been a great contributor throughout the years. In appreciation for all that he’s done, as well as many other contributors, the rink committee has made a request of council that the rink be named after him,” said Mayor Brian Hunt. Council unanimously supported the decision.
“He loved hockey so much,” said Dan’s wife Lise.
Asked how her late husband would have reacted to the news, she said, “Dan was really shy, but I actually think he would think it was cool. He had a good time making it happen.”
O’Neill explained her husband’s involvement with the arena. “The mayor came over to the cottage with Joanne Leclaire. They asked Dan for help with the (Raise the Roof Golf Tournament) fundraising,” she said.
“It was perfect timing. It was local, he was finished travelling for work, so he was really happy to start this project. It was doable for a retired guy,” said Lise.
Dan had worked for various companies, including Molson Brewery (as CEO), Campbell Soup Company, H.J. Heinz and SC Johnson.
He took over fundraising efforts for Canada’s national women’s hockey team and personally donated $500,000, becoming the largest single private donor to support the players during two Olympic Games, including the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
“He really believed in supporting sports at all levels. He was very private about his contributions. I don’t think I really knew everything until after he died,” said his daughter Jennifer O’Neill.
After Dan passed away, the Calabogie rink project was still $20,000 away from its fundraising goals. Dan’s son D'Arcy promptly started a GoFundMe page for his father, which eventually raised more than $55,000.
Proceeds from the fundraiser paid off the Calabogie rink project, as well as allowing for donations to Dan’s alma mater Carleton University’s hockey team and $5,000 to the food bank in Arnprior.
“Calabogie is close to our heart. The whole community he really loved, it was his home. It’s so great for that community to have a covered rink. It was an important project for him for sure,” said Jennifer.
One of Lise’s favourite memories is when Dan made a skating rink for their grandchildren in Colorado.
“It was hard to make a rink because the house was on a hill,” Lise said. “They would play hockey (at night) with headlamps on in our backyard. All the other adults were thrilled because he was out on the rink keeping the kids going.”
“I miss him a lot, but I’m also thankful. I had a great ride, a great life with him. Things were always a lot better than they otherwise would have been if he was there,” she said.
Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News