Friday, 9 May 2014

Canada’s captain Caroline Ouellette continues to give back to the community

For a world-class athlete such as Caroline Ouellette, the word off-season is not in her vocabulary. After cementing her athletic legacy at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games by becoming one of only three Canadian female athletes to claim gold in four consecutive Winter Games, Ouellette was back with the Montreal Stars upon her return to Canada.

During her late-season tenure with the Stars, she continued to engage in her love of giving back to the community. Proudly participating in the Stars fund-raiser for Breast Cancer, it is one of her favorite events on the CWHL calendar, enhanced by the fact that Stars players are adorned in pink jerseys for the first period. After her aunt Claire survived the disease in 2010 (while Ouellette was preparing for a gold-medal run at the Vancouver Winter Games), it is a cause close to her heart.

Even after the CWHL season came to a close, Ouellette was not finished with hockey or her charitable endeavors. During the 2012-13 Canadian Interuniversity Sport season, Ouellette also found time to serve as a member of Les Lawton’s coaching staff with the Concordia Stingers. While she was not able to assume such tasks in 2013-14, she still managed to help participate in fund raising for the club.

Ed Meagher Arena, the home rink for the Stingers program, featured a charitable match. In an effort to help raise funds for the Stingers, eight Stars members and five Stingers were teammates for one day. Playing against a group of male hockey players, Ouellette contributed a six point output (on the strength of four goals) including the game-winning tally in a 7-6 final.

Following the momentum of the Stingers contest, Ouellette also took part in an event that she has partaken in for several years. Once again, she donated her time to participate in Hockey Helps the Homeless. In 2014, HHtH hosted an event at Sportsplex Pierrefonds. With the goal of raising $300,000, HHtH raised over $350,000, benefiting outreach partners such as Dans La Rue, St. James Mission and others.

Ouellette was among several female hockey legends, including the likes of fellow gold medalists Catherine Ward and Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored the overtime winner to win the gold in Sochi, which participated. The day includes a women’s tournament in which each team plays at least three games and has two female stars as teammates.

While her hockey skates are temporarily put aside, she is still keeping fit and active. Along with Genevieve Lacasse, one of only three goaltenders to have won the Clarkson Cup, IIHF Gold and Winter Games Gold, this dynamic duo are off to the Arctic region of Canada as part of the True Patriot Love Expedition Team.

It is a group of 24 remarkable individuals from all walks of life joined by 12 injured soldiers testing their skiing and outdoor camping abilities for a noble cause. The goal is to raise awareness of physical and mental injuries that have had an impact on Canadian soldiers during the Afghanistan mission by engaging in an expedition to the North Pole.

A “training camp” was held in Alcove, Quebec, in preparation for said expedition. From learning to prepare with issues such as snowshoeing, skiing with sleds, communication, other topics at the camp included hygiene, sleeping conditions, wildlife and communication. As a side note, a gesture of support was shown by fellow Olympian Caroline Calve, who provided Ouellette with a pair of UVEX Glasses that she used in competition.

Prior to the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships held in Ottawa, Ontario, Ouellette and her teammates held their training camp in Petawawa. With a Canadian Forces Base located in the vicinity, it was an opportunity to gain an even greater appreciation for Canada’s military personnel.

The foundation funds programs for veterans, whether they are in Canada or abroad while serving as a channel for everyday Canadians to show their appreciation and patriotism.
As Shaun Francis, the founder and chair of True Patriot Love Foundation stated, the expedition is integral to advancing TPL’s mission to bridging the disconnect between Canada’s military and civilian worlds. For Ouellette, the expedition is a remarkable way for this Canadian hero to appreciate the sacrifices of Canada’s soldiers, another group of Canadian heroes, while helping raise awareness for their operational stress injuries.

During the Easter weekend, Ouellette and Lacasse made their way north to Resolute Bay. Their journey also involved the chance to meet star struck fans at Cadet Hall in Iqaluit. It is all part of a humanitarian effort in which the two hockey heroes shall ski to the North Pole with the TPL Foundation to support Canada’s military veterans. 

Having also visited Africa several years ago as an ambassador for Right to Play, Ouellette is a worldly yet remarkable person who is providing a powerful impact. Her journey to the North Pole represents a different set of extremes, but it is one where fans and friends alike are confident that Ouellette will once again emerge with a series of positive experiences that help to inspire. 

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