Monday, 9 September 2013

Hockey heroines Duhamel and Lipscombe give humanitarian assist with cleanup of High River

While the aftermath of the damage will results in years of healing and adjustment, two members of the courageous crew had links to the CWHL. Mandi Duhamel, a former member of the now-defunct Ottawa Lady Senators franchise is currently the Manager of Female Hockey Development for Hockey Canada. Although Duhamel has been a resident of Calgary for less than a year, the outpouring of support and friendship in the community has made an impression,

“Those also who have volunteered countless hours since the event have had an incredible effect. Though I am new to the city, I have quickly gained an appreciation for it and the people within. I had not been to High River prior to our volunteer day but you could easily see the affects the flooding had on this community. ”

In addition, Kristen Lipscombe, a former player with the Laurier Golden Hawks is a member of Hockey Canada’s Communications department. She is also pulling double duty with the CWHL as a member of the editorial staff. Having volunteered for many causes such as Oxfam, she was moved to take part in the clean-up.

“Starting the day at Highwood Golf & Country Club was a labour intensive, tiring experience, but then you look up and see the employees of the golf course and other volunteers that have been there day in and day out since the flood, for hours each day, working on the course that they refer to as a “pivotal part of the community” and it really makes you think, I’ve only been doing this for an hour, they’ve been doing this for weeks,” noted Duhamel.

Armed with rubber boots, face masks and gloves, Duhamel and Lipscombe were among the thousands of volunteers during July 2013 that assisted in the cleanup.  After the Highwood River burst its banks, homes in the vicinity became mud-caked and damaged beyond repair as hundreds of millions of litres of water covered the landscape. On June 20, a state of emergency was declared in High River, and residents were forced to evacuate.

The initiative towards organizing the clean-up was actually spearheaded by a former Hockey Canada employee. Duhamel explains how the humanitarian gesture took shape,

“The former Manager of Female Development, Trina Radcliffe, and her new company Deliver Good, (a company that builds efficiencies into the charitable giving process by connecting charities and non-profits who need stuff with people and companies who have stuff, have been organizing volunteer days for local companies for the past few weeks.

Just like Hockey Canada they have organized the employees of various companies in Calgary to gather together and volunteer a full day in High River. It is very honourable the amount of time and effort the employees of Deliver Good have dedicated to the cause, and the amount of people they have given the opportunity to help out.” 

Upon entering the first house, it was an eye opening moment for Lipscombe. Watching the aftermath of a natural disaster eradicate a family’s history was an engulfing occurrence.

“When my group walked into the first home that we helped, we were in a basement full of muck that had been left behind by the flood, with thick layers of mud covering all of the family’s belongings, from children’s toys and Christmas decorations to books and old photo albums. Everything was destroyed and nothing was salvageable.

Duhamel holds a spot in the hearts and minds of many Ottawa sports fans when the city hosted the CIS National Championships. After her legendary shot blocking performance with the Ottawa Gee Gees preserved a comeback win against St. Francis Xavier in the event, the captain was applauded. Her efforts in High River would only reinforce what makes her such a character person.

“Though the damage and visuals were shocking, I wish everyone in High River the best and can only reiterate my awe of their spirits.”

During the clean-up, she would find her own inspiration. While working in a house that had been soiled with mud, Duhamel would meet the daughter of the homeowner. Helping her gave the cause a whole new meaning for Duhamel, as she saw the human toll of the damage.

“We came in with a group of nearly 30 and only made a small dent in what needs to be done so you can only imagine the effort that the employees have put in each day. It was a privilege to work alongside them.  I also spent the latter half of the day emptying out the basement of a house filled with 2 feet of solid mud. The owner had not yet been allowed to return to the home and her daughter was leading the efforts to repair it.

For Lipscombe, a compassionate individual who has given generously to other charities, the volunteer experience in High River was a labour of love.

“My most rewarding and satisfying work comes from helping others, so it’s an easy choice for me to get involved in volunteer work. Reaching out to Alberta communities in need after unprecedented flooding has been important to me because I know others would do the same for me if needed.

There is a strength of spirit that has shown itself within Calgary and across southern Alberta in the wake of these terrible floods, and I am both happy and proud to contribute whatever I can to keep up this positive momentum, as there is still so much work to be done in recovery efforts. Many hands make light work, as they say, so I encourage others in the area to get involved as well!” proclaimed Lipscombe.

Duhamel added, “Regarding helping out, all I can really say is I hope I helped make a difference where I could and I admire those that are working day in and day out to continue to do so. I have such respect for those that lost their homes, businesses or were affected by the flooding as they have not sat back or wavered. They are keeping hope and forging ahead and I am proud to have helped keep that alive.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated

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