Family and friends took to the outdoor rink last weekend for a hockey tournament, raising close to $2,000 in support of a local boy who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Ten-year-old Deven Vennard was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer just under a month ago. He is currently receiving treatment in Vancouver.
Since word broke of Deven’s diagnosis, the community has been actively organizing a number of events to raise money for the family.
Most recently, young hockey players and supporters came out to compete in Deven’s Defenders Street Hockey Tournament at the outdoor hockey rink last Saturday afternoon, where they raised more than $1,700.
“We started talking about what we could do to get lots of people involved and we came up with a hockey tournament,” said Leeann Herrington, co-organizer of the tournament, whose son played T-ball with Deven.
“We wanted something that the kids could come out and participate in so they could realize what they’re doing it for. Not just give some money and not think about it, but to really get out there and help Deven and his family.”
Eight teams signed up for the tournament, raising $400 with registration alone.
Liam Marshall, Luke West, Dylan Conlon and Blake Knibbs are friends with Deven’s older brother Jared and were part of a team that signed up to play in the tournament.
“I know Deven, he’s a really nice kid. It’ll be nice to see him get through this,” said Marshall. “I thought this was a good idea because this is a hockey town, this is one of the best ways to help raise money.”
Sheri Maillot is their neighbour and has known the family for three years.
“[Deven] is really funny. He’s got the goofiest smile ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him not smiling, he’s got a great sense of humour . . . I asked him if he likes to play hockey and he said ‘no, I like to hunt’,” she said, adding that the family enjoys hunting and fishing on the river.
Tanis Groen, a long-time family friend, was at Saturday’s fundraiser and has been in contact with them since they left for Vancouver.
“He has a long fight ahead of him and it’ll be quite a battle,” said Groen. “He gets to go see a BC Lions game [Saturday night] with the children’s hospital and he met Dan Hamhuis for coffee on Thursday.”
On Facebook, Deven’s father Dave expressed how much he appreciates the town’s support.
“We want to thank all of the wonderful people that come forward to help us through this difficult time,” he said. “We have been overwhelmed with the love and generosity shown to our family. Our appreciation goes beyond what words can express.”
There is also an online auction on Facebook to raise money for the family. People can donate anything from meals and snow-shovelling services to lottery tickets and clothing for others to bid on.
The auction closes on Sept. 22.
An account has been set up at the Royal Bank where people can make donations as well.
During the 23rd annual Smithers Toy Run recently, Harley Davidson also held a barbecue, raising an additional $3,000 for the family.
“Our community has a big heart. Regardless of what the issue is, we can pull together and help each other out. It doesn’t matter how close friends you are,” said Herrington. “You come together and you do what you can because no parents and no child deserves to go through this alone and we all just want Deven to know that we’re all here for him and we’re all rooting for him”
She added that they will continue hosting barbecue fundraisers for the family in the future.