The Review Newspaper

The Vankleek Hill Cougars: Surviving with the help of new volunteers

You can hear the relief and enthusiasm in Mario Messier’s voice.

“We have new people coming forward and a few of our existing members are staying on,” Messier told The Review Friday.

Messier himself will continue on as president of the not-for-profit, community-owned Vankleek Hill Junior Cougars hockey team, which was under threat of closing just a few days ago. Lack of volunteers for coaching, training and the board had put the 28-year-old organization at risk. An emergency meeting had taken place Thursday evening at the Windsor Tavern, but Messier said that even before the meeting, a few people had called to offer their help.

The volunteer turnover seemed to be much the same story as is happening in other local organizations. Parents are involved because they have children involved, but when children grow up, the parent volunteers are ready to take a break.

Messier says he had become involved with the organization because of his long-standing involvement with hockey and then, his son was on the team. The situation was much the same for Normand Sauvé, he said. But Messier and Sauvé have had a change of heart.

“I am willing to stay on as president,” Messier said, explaining that having more support has made a difference for him. Vice-President Normand Sauvé will also stay on. A new director will join the organization. Newcomer Claudia Portelance will join existing directors, Patricia Lavoie, Kelly Lefebvre and her daughter, Brianna Lefebvre, and Steve Barton.

Marc Berniqué will be the team’s general manager, Frankie Doppelhamer will be head coach and Luc Chaumont will be assistant coach for the team. Trainer Steve Druce is also onboard for the next Cougars’ season.

About 80 per cent of last year’s players will be continuing on this season. Recruitment will be taking place to complete the roster.

Messier said it had been getting late in the season to regroup, and that new volunteers have come forward just in the nick of time. A fundraising golf tournament for the team takes place on Saturday, June 2. It is still possible to register by going to the website,  http://vankleekhillcougars.net or by send messier an e-mail: jlammessier@hotmail.com

It costs about $50,000 to keep the team functioning, said Messier, and sponsorships, which he says are crucial to the operation of the team, are currently being sought for the team to supplement fundraising activities. He mentioned that the loss of Scotiabank’s matching funds will affect the team, which will have to make up those funds some other way. (The Team Scotia Community Programme was severely cut back at the beginning of 2018. In 2017, the Cougars organization had received $4,000 from Scotiabank.)

Admission fees to the games are also a source of revenue, but Messier said that limited revenue is used to pay for referees.

The organization can always use volunteers and sponsors. If you want to find out more, or want to offer your help, call Messier at 1-514-603-0019.


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