Winterland Invitational raises over $176,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities

LAKELAND - Over the Family Day weekend, the Lakeland witnessed an incredible display of community spirit as hockey teams descended upon arenas in Cold Lake, Bonnyville and Elk Point.

Beyond the competition on the ice, the youth hockey tournament serves a greater purpose – supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and providing vital assistance to families in need.

Now in its fifth year, the Winterland Invitational has become a signature event for RMHC. The not-for-profit organization has been successfully raising funds that go towards offering accommodation, meals, and respite for families required to travel for pediatric care.

Oreen Skiba, Manager of Events at RMHC Alberta, highlighted the significance of the Winterland Invitational in the organization's fundraising initiatives, stating, "The teams fundraise together, the parents and fans participate in raffles and a 50/50, and the overall awareness creates important donations for RMHC Alberta.”

Skiba added that the event is held annually in Bonnyville, Elk Point, Cold Lake, and sometimes Glendon, depending on how many teams participate. Hockey players in U9, U11 and U13 take part in the tournament.

Delving into the mechanics of fundraising, she shared further insights, explaining that funds are raised through registration fees, a raffle, a large 50/50 draw and teams raising donations also.

The Winterland Invitational isn't just about hockey and charity, it's also a community-driven event that brings families, fans, and local businesses together.

Serina Parsons, Executive Director of the Bonnyville & District Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the tournament's impact on the Lakeland region's economy.

"The RMHC Alberta Winterland Invitational is so much more than an important fundraising event for an incredible cause, it is an economic driver for our region and provides a boost for many local businesses," explained Parsons. The tournament uses multiple facilities, including the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre, the Cold Lake Energy Centre, and the AG Ross Arena in Elk Point, creating an impressive economic boost for the entire Lakeland area.

Local businesses benefit as over 720 young athletes and their families flock to the region, staying in local hotels, dining in restaurants, and contributing to the local economy by refueling at gas stations.

While the primary focus of the Winterland Invitational is supporting RMHC, the organizers and participants acknowledge the broader positive impact on the community. The tournament creates a harmonious blend of sports, charity, and economic growth.

"The impacts events such as this have on the entire community are significant, so please support this important initiative," urged Parsons.

The Vegreville U11 Wranglers won the team challenge and went home with a $500 McDonald's gift certificate for a team dinner.

With a mission to gather support for RMHC Alberta, the tournament set out to raise over $165,000 during the Family Day long weekend. The weekend event surpassed expectations, securing a remarkable $176,000 for the 2024 event.

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week