Just because he didn’t make it to the NHL with his buddy, doesn’t mean Akash Kathuria’s hockey career is over just yet.
Kathuria slapped on the pads over the weekend and played goalie for seven games during the third annual ball hockey fundraiser for Semo Foundation. Despite rain throughout the day on Saturday, everyone was all smiles on Sunday as the tournament concluded at Newton’s Unwin Park.
“I’ve always wanted to run a ball hockey tournament,” said Kathuria, 28, “but having someone on board like the Semo Foundation has really helped make this a reality.
“In our first year we had five sponsors and raised $3,000. Now we have more than 30 sponsors, and we were able to raise about $15,000 this year.”
It’s helped to have the support of NHLer and Kathuria’s long-time friend, Brenden Dillon. The San Jose Sharks defenceman has known Kathuria since he was six years old, a relationship that has now spanned more than 20 years.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Kathuria said. “His mom was one of my high school teachers and his dad coached us in hockey. We played rep together, before Brenden went to Seattle, Texas, Dallas, and now San Jose.”
“He made it and I didn’t, but no hard feelings,” Kathuria said with a smile. “I guess I have to cheer for the Sharks now though, or whatever team he ends up with.”
Although Dillon was unable to make the event due to a last-minute training session in Kelowna, he did donate signed jersey, pucks, sticks and shirts that were raffled off as prizes.
“It sucks that I couldn’t be there to support Akash, but what he’s doing is really cool,” Dillon told the Now-Leader on the phone. “I know Akash has a great heart and for him, being able to bring kids and adults together that love to play the game is great. At the same time, when you’re having money that’s going towards a good cause and good people, it adds to that as well.”
That’s not the only connection that has helped turn Kathuria’s vision into a successful event. His relationship with Manny Kang, founder of the Semo Foundation, dates back to before Kathuria was born.
Back in the 1970s, when Kang’s family first moved to Canada, one of the first families that welcomed them was Kathuria’s. Akash’s grandmother and Kang’s mother quickly became great friends.
Kang’s mother, Tarsem Kaur Kang, suddenly passed away in 2001, at the age of 51. Her philanthropic ideals inspired Kang to create the Semo Foundation, based on his mother’s nickname, 10 years ago.
“She had a vision to do more in the community,” said Kang, 46. “Her thing was always about bringing people together and helping those in need. Our mantra is food, clothes and shelter, so the funds we get at a tournament like this, we distribute them throughout the community.”
The Semo Foundation (semofoundation.com) works in conjunction with organizations such as Surrey Food Bank and Surrey Christmas Bureau, but they also help other groups that come to them with philanthropic ideas.
“Our whole thing is that we ask the community to reach out to us,” Kang said. “It works out great that way. A lot of the younger generation sees the value of giving back, but they don’t know where to go. We’ve had a couple of groups reach out to us saying they want to feed the homeless on Hastings, but they don’t know where to get started. We’ll say great, we’re here to help you out, let’s do this.”