(Submitted by Pat Mackey - image credit)
A Mount Pearl hockey team is gunning for a win in the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup — but it's Kids Help Phone that would reap the reward, to the tune of $100, 000.
The City Tire Blues are one of 11 regional finalists across Canada vying for the grand prize. Voting ends on Feb. 24.
When it came time for the team to decide which charity or not-for-profit group to support, team manager Roary MacPherson said it was the players that suggested Kids Help Phone.
"I asked them 'what are you thinking about?' and a couple of them actually brought up the fact that with COVID … they don't really understand what's going on sometimes, and they'd like to be able to talk about it," MacPherson said.
"Once we did some research on it, the kids were all over it. They thought it was a great idea ... It would reach right across the country, it would help so many people."
Kids Help Phone is a national, 24/7 support service that offers professional counselling, information and referrals, in both English and French. There is also a texting option for to connect with volunteers. Those contact numbers are 1-800-668-6868 and via text at 686868.
Matthew Abbott,12, plays for the Blues and said he wanted to help his peers who may be struggling during the pandemic.
"With COVID on the go and isolation, more and more kids need someone to talk to to help during these weird times," Abbott told CBC News.
There is some personal redemption at stake for the team: they lost out on the provincial finals bid to the eventual champion Northeast Eagles of Torbay.
But, MacPhearson stresses, that's not the priority.
"We think it's really important that children understand they're really privileged to be playing any type of sports, and that there's more to life than just sports itself," he said. "That it's important to be involved in your community and to try to help it wherever you can."
Kids Help Phone need 'extremely high' amid COVID-19
The $100,000 prize would come as a welcome boost for Kids Help Phone, as the need is still very clearly there as the pandemic rages on nearly a year later.
"We certainly saw a really high uptake in the immediate months following the pandemic, and we levelled out a little bit but our service demand remains extremely high compared to our 2019 rates," Emily Cardwell, a development officer with Kids Help Phone told The St. John's Morning Show.
According to Cardwell, the number of calls from young people seeking counselling, support, information and referrals has risen 137 per cent between 2019 and 2020 — exploding to 4.5 million calls, up from 1.9 million.
Cardwell said many of the calls have common themes — isolation, anxiety, stress, and concerns over eating and body image. However, statistics from Newfoundland and Labrador reveal other issues kids are calling about.
"In the last lockdown, we did see a number of those trends as well in addition to some more increases in things like reports of conversations surrounding gender identity, as well as a little bit of an increase in conversations surrounding suicide and self-harm in this province."
"They really are not alone in what they're feeling and what they may reach out to us about," she added. "You can really see what other young people are connecting with us about, which will help encourage outreach and hopefully feelings of hope and that kind of thing."
If the Blues were to win it all when the Good Deeds Cup winners are announced on March 20, 12-year-old Abbott hopes it can help as many people across the country as possible.
"It would just be amazing to hear that we did such a good thing for such a good cause."
But regardless of the outcome, MacPherson said the boys are already winners in his book.
"Winning it, that would be the icing on the cake," he said.
"But I think they've already learned so much from this process. Win, lose, or draw ... everybody who participates in a program like this is a winner."