When Daniel and Henrik Sedin walked out of Kent elementary's library doors and into the playground on Saturday afternoon, the cheers could be heard from well down the block. The NHL superstars hadn't announced their visit, as it was meant to be a small, intimate event to celebrate the opening of the new playground.
For some young fans, the celebration was too good to be true.
"I just can't believe this," one child said, running toward the playground. It's hard to know whether his excitement was over the brand new play equipment, or the visiting Canucks.
Saturday marked the official launch of the Sedin Family Foundation, of which Agassiz and Mission are the first beneficiaries. The twins chose to kick off the foundation with two appearances in Agassiz, delighting fans of all ages at both Kent elementary and the new Kent Community Recreation and Cultural Centre.
They signed jerseys, mugged for photo ops, cut ribbons, and even managed to play a little shinny with some lucky Agassiz residents.
But the main reason for the visit was to promote the foundation. Earlier this year, an anonymous donor for the Kent playground project was announced, with a generous contribution of $50,000. That pushed the project to near completion, a task that may have otherwise taken years longer, through raffles and other fundraising efforts.
By this weekend, those donors were no longer anonymous, and praise abounded for the Sedin families' generosity.
"We were stunned and overwhelmed," principal Stan Watchorn said, when they initially found out they were being paired with the Sedin family. "It's a blessing indeed."
"This goes to show the type of people they are," said school trustee Ron Johnstone. "They are great role models for our youth. It's nice to see professional athletes be something other than professional athletes; they are community contributors."
The Sedin Family Foundation was established to support children's health and education with a focus on family wellness. It's mandate is to serve the entire province. It was launched as a way for the Sedins to thank the people of British Columbia for everything they have done for the two Canucks players and their families. It is funded primarily by the Sedins, with partners who help them have a greater impact on the community.
The visit to Agassiz also included a stop at the nearly-finished Community Recreation and Cultural Centre. The foundation has donated to that project, as well, paying for the purchase of all the equipment in the gymnasium. In return, the District of Kent is planting a tree in their honour on the grounds, and installing a plaque to commemorate the donation. The centre is expected to open at the end of this month.
Their final job while in town was to have some fun. Two teams were formed, with one Canuck on each side. A massive audience had gathered inside the gymnasium, and the room filled with cheers as each team scored. For local residents, it was the first chance to have a look inside the new facility.
When it all ended, a few lucky audience members were able to meet Daniel Sedin as he signed jerseys, hockey cards and other Canucks paraphernalia.
"We love living and playing hockey in Vancouver," Henrik Sedin said. "Johanna and I are very happy to help the kids and families of British Columbia through our new foundation."
In addition to the Agassiz donations, they also helped out the Mission Possible Cycling Program in Mission by providing several new mountain bikes for that program. Several of the kids involved in Mission Possible had a chance to meet the Sedins at Kent elementary on Saturday as well.
The event at the elementary school included a free lunch from Agassiz Subway. The project has had many other supporters, including Allenby's, and Mountain Institution. A previously blank cement wall was painted over the course of three days by a Mountain inmate, under the watch of a prison guard. Allenby's provided all the paints and supplies for that portion of the project.
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