For the past three years, many people in the mid-Island area have been honouring the spirit of Blair McKinnon including Shawna Broekhuizen, general manager of the The Beach Club Resort in Parksville.
McKinnon was only 30 years old when he suffered a seizure and died in 2010. The life-long resident of Nanaimo helped found and was vice-president of the Young Professionals of Nanaimo (YPN).
He was active in charity work and was fundraising to restore the E&N train station before he died.
To honour the dreams of McKinnon, his family, friends and business associates wanted to continue his legacy of community involvement and created the Blair McKinnon celebrity football game to raise funds for the charities he supported. The last two games have raised over $165,000 for organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Vancouver Island, YPN and the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Scholarship Foundation. This year’s proceeds will go to the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society, the YPN and the VIU Scholarship Foundation. Seventy five thousand dollars is the goal organizers hope to raise this year.
Oceanside residents can do their part by attending a reception on Thursday, June 7, from 5 to 10 p.m. on the oceanfront patio of The Beach Club Resort. Tickets are $25.
The third annual Blair McKinnon celebrity football game will take place at Caledonia Field in Nanaimo on Thursday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m. and Broekhuizen, who played in the game last year, admitted she is not quarterback material but the most important thing is just participating.
“It is an honour to be asked to play in the game and to help raise funds for the Blair McKinnon Foundation. Blair was a colleague and a great person and an incredible inspiration,” said Broekhuizen.
She stated that supporting the foundation is a way for The Beach Club Resort to give back and added, “it is an honor to be a part of such a great event.”
Roger McKinnon said although his son never got to see the completion of the train station project, he is happy to see Blair’s dream come true.
He admitted that his son would not be happy to see that passenger train is no longer running, but at least the station has been restored and has been leased out to an Irish pub that will be opening at the end of June.
“I hope the train will run again … it is my son’s dream.”
In January this year the McKinnon family lost another great man who had been working with Roger to fill Blair’s role as Roger’s right hand.
Jason McKinnon had organized and played in the last two celebrity football games and was involved in a variety of charity events…so this year they are playing in memory of Jason.
“Jason was only 23 when he died and my son was only 30. They were two great kids. The last few years haven’t been good for us,” agreed Roger.
This year for the game there will be a helicopter ball drop right before the kick off. Organizers are dropping 1,000 footballs onto the field and the one closet to the centre of the circle wins $5,000 cash. Tickets are $20 each per ball. For more information on the ball drop and the June 14 game visit www.bmfootball.ca.