This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
A 14-year-old Innu hockey player from Labrador is heading to a hockey school in Ontario thanks to fundraising efforts by his grandfather.
Aries Benuen played last season at the Canadian International Hockey Academy – a private, high level hockey school in Rockland Ont. Just outside Ottawa.
The tuition is expensive. A full time student will pay $41,900 according to the academy’s website – so his grandfather Sebastian Benuen raised money by walking over 334 kilometres.
“I didn’t work and I had to find someway to find the money I guess and send him out because made a promise to him years ago that I would try everything I can to help you get a good education,” said Sebastian.
Aries’ grandparents moved 2,000 km west to Gatineau Que., across the river from Ottawa, so that the young player could play hockey more often against tougher opponents.
Aries was step by step with his grandfather the whole journey.
“I want to thank my grandfather and grandma for doing the fundraiser and the walk for me,” said Aries in a phone interview with APTN.
“I grew up to hockey, my whole family plays hockey and like most of the reserve plays hockey, it’s the most popular sport in our reserve.”
It took Sebastian nine days to complete the walk from Churchill Falls back home to Sheshatshiu.
The initial goal was $50,000 but with donations from across the country including GoFundMe, corporate sponsors and even 50/50 sales in Nunavut, that goal was smashed, and they raised just over $74,000.
Sebastian reflected on the journey and how much people donated and couldn’t help getting a little emotional.
“I was surprised when I see the amount of money that was raised I just wanted to reach my goal,” he said.” And it was so emotional when my sister was telling me that this is how much we made and I couldn’t even describe how I felt because I was almost cry at the time.”
Aries will be going back to the academy in Rockland around the first week of October.
Former students at the school include 2017 11th overall NHL draft pick Gabriel Vilardi and numerous major junior and college hockey players.
By Darrell Stranger