For former Oil Baron Ben Sharf, seeing photos and news coverage of last month’s terrifying wildfires inspired him and a few friends to create the Fort McMurray Relief Fund, to help Fort McMurrayites who experienced loss from the wildfires.
“Seeing the mass destruction in a place I once called home hit me hard,” said Sharf, a native of Williamsville, N.Y.
“I had a billet family that treated me like one of their own. I had coaches, trainers, and teammates guide me and enhance my junior hockey experience, our team had community support win or lose. The least I could do is give back to a community that shaped me into the person I am today,” added Sharf.
Citing MOB Assistant Coach Mike Brodeur and former teammate and McMurrayite Jason Hamilton as his inspiration to create the relief fund, Sharf did not hesitate to give back to the community that welcomed him for seven months during 2015-16 Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) season. Both Brodeur and Hamilton were evacuated from Fort McMurray on May 3, with Brodeur and his family losing their home located in Fort McMurray’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood.
“It seems like just yesterday that Coach Keca called to inform me that he acquired my rights in a trade,” said Sharf. “It was a very scary transition, but Fort McMurray welcomed me with open arms. I established friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Boasting an array of NHL memorabilia including a number of signed rookie cards, jerseys, and sticks, Ben intends to donate all funds raised to the Fort McMurray United Way, to support wildfire recovery efforts in the region.
“As an organization, we're extremely proud of Ben,” said Northern Alberta Athletic Association (NAAA) and Oil Barons President David Fitzgerald.
“It’s heart warming to see the initiative that Ben has taken to create a relief fund to support others in a time of need. I encourage the entire CJHL community to support Ben by bidding on items or donating items to the auction to support our community,” said Fitzgerald.
Oil Barons Head Coach and General Manager Tom Keca echoed similar words and praise for Sharf’s efforts.
“As a coaching staff and organization, we’re extremely proud of Ben and would like to thank him for his hard work to pull this relief fund together,” said Keca.
“As a 20 year-old, Ben has shown a tremendous amount of maturity and leadership, demonstrating the values we teach our players during their time with us in Fort McMurray. We always strive to recruit good players, but also good kids off the ice. Ben exemplifies both of these qualities and has truly embraced the MOB mentality.”
Monetary donations are also being accepted by the site, with the auction closing on Tuesday, July 12. For more information about the auction, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All funds raised will be donated to the Fort McMurray United Way by Thursday, September 1.
Written by: Jordan Fitzgerald, Fort McMurray Oil Barons