Cohen Connah-Piercey is a huge Ottawa Senators fan with a small problem.
“I don’t have cable. I don’t really get to watch hockey. I watch it when I can,” he said.
But Sunday, the Grade 6 student got to see the Senators in person, as thousands laced up their skates and took to the ice for SENSational Sunday at Scotiabank Place.
United Way Ottawa hosted the invitation-only event, thanking individual donors for giving $1,000 or more, and public servants for using automatic payroll deductions to contribute to the agency.
Hockey great Phil Esposito was on hand, along with 10 Senators players and alumni scattered throughout the arena for photo and autograph sessions.
“I’m very excited. I’ve never really seen a Sens person in person,” Connah-Piercey said.
He attended the event with his sister Madison and five other kids from the Manordale P.S. after-school kids’ club.
“Our agency is appreciative of having the opportunity to participate in an event like this and bring kids out that most of the time don’t get this sort of opportunity,” said Brad Spooner, program manager at the Nepean Rideau Osgoode Community Resource Centre, which runs the Manordale program.
“I know the kids just love it.”
Ten-year-old Mackenzie Parker said she’s been counting down the days on her calendar, and wore an Alfie jersey just for the occasion.
“I’ve been talking about it for weeks now,” she said.
And she wasn’t alone.
A total of 50 children from the Somerset West Community Health Centre; the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa; Christie Lake Kids; Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre; Le Patro; and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa — all United Way supported programs — took part in the festivities.
Cassie Doyle, the 2010 campaign chair, said 90% of donations in Ottawa come from individuals, as opposed to corporations, which is more than any United Way in Canada.
Their goal this year is $33.1 million and $26.5 million has been raised so far.
With support from the government of Canada’s workplace charitable campaign, they may reach their target.
Robert Fonberg, deputy minister of national defence and chairperson of the campaign, estimates 50% of the 80,000 local public servants signed up to donate money from each paycheque.
“We’re over $21 million,” Fonberg said.
While the adults crunch numbers, the kids are taking in the day.
“My friends are here with me to skate and I’m really happy,” said Madison Connah-Piercey.