Monday, May 27, 2024

Louis-Riel HS holding month-long CHEO fundraiser to support champion hockey player battling leukemia

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By Emma Zhao

Just days after the Louis-Riel Rebelles girls’ hockey team revelled in the high of winning the OFSAA provincial high school championship, they experienced the lowest of lows when one of their players was diagnosed with leukemia.

Grade 10 student-athlete Caroline Courchesne often gave the team energy, so the news hit the tight-knit group very hard.

“Caro is always joking around. She’s so funny. Being around her, you’re always laughing,” highlights Rebelles coach Laurence Morissette. “And when she’s on the ice playing hockey or off the ice training, she’s always giving her best. She’s a really competitive person. She’s really strong.

“I have her as a student in one of my (science) classes too, and she’s always working hard. She really wants to go to a higher level and she’s always doing everything that she can to achieve it.”

Courchesne is part of the school’s high-performance hockey program, where participants are used to training hard and pushing their limits, which made it difficult for athletes to come to terms with a cancer diagnosis that was beyond their control, Morissette explains.

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“It was hard because they were used to seeing her every day and having fun with her,” adds the coach who previously played for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. “All the girls on the hockey team are really close.

“They were crying, but they were also like, ‘OK, as a team, what we can do to show our support to her and to her family? And they jumped on the opportunity to do something right away.”

The OFSAA-champion Louis-Riel Rebelles girls’ hockey team. File photo

As a show of solidarity, long-locked members of the boys’ hockey team shaved their heads on Apr. 1, and the school contributed towards Courchesne’s family’s CN Cycle for CHEO effort. The Courchesnes’ team raised over $60,000 for the children’s hospital, where she is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments or blood transfusions almost every day.

Next up is a month-long fundraiser for CHEO driven by Louis-Riel, which officially kicked off this week. The school has a series of lunchtime events planned to reward milestones reached on the way to reaching their goal of $13,000 – in honour of Courchesne’s jersey #13.

The fundraiser reached the $1,500 plateau within the first 24 hours since it was launched, which means teachers will have to parade in students’ school uniforms.

Later on comes leg waxing, head shaving/hair dying, a Fear Factor challenge, races in inflatable costumes, a teachers’ rap battle and ice bath, a pie-in-the-face game, and the grand prize – a dunk tank for the principals and the Sports-Études program’s strength coach.

The fundraising drive will run until May 28, with the final donation total to be revealed on May 30. Tax-deductible charitable donations can be made to the “LR pour Caro” campaign on CHEO’s website.

“It’s just to bring joy between students, between teachers,” signals Morissette, noting they’ll be sure to share photos and videos of the activities with Courchesne. “It’s a rough time for Caro, a tough time for her family too. So everything that we can do to make her smile, to show that we support her during all her treatments … it’s going to be huge for her.”

Louis-Riel students Emma-Mae McKenzie and Geoffroy Louké helped introduce the fundraising initiative during a livestream broadcast Tuesday.

“Let’s stay positive and show Caroline that we are all there for her,” Louké enthused. “We want to show her that she’s not alone and that the Rebelle family will be there throughout her fight against leukemia.”

Courchesne also expressed her gratitude to the school community in the video.

“I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement and support. It really touches me,” said the 15-year-old. “I feel your support all around me and I’m ready to take on the biggest challenge of my life, and especially to win. Thank you Rebelles, I’ll see you soon.”

Shortly after her diagnosis, Courchesne received a video from Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators, one of her favourite players. Courchesne, who plays for the East Ottawa Stars under-18 ‘AA’ club team as well, was also a guest of honour at a PWHL Ottawa game against Boston.

WATCH CTV News Ottawa: Young hockey player battling leukemia receives support from Ottawa Senators and her community

Morissette is proud to see the way her players have rallied behind their teammate, though she wasn’t at all surprised.

At OFSAA, mid-size Louis-Riel faced off against the province’s biggest schools, played six games in three days, and overcame a 3-1 deficit in the championship game against the tournament hosts to win in overtime.

Read More: Louis-Riel wins OT thriller over tournament hosts to capture OFSAA girls’ hockey crown

Tenacity and resilience were the team’s key traits, Morissette indicates, and it was no different when the team received news about Courchesne’s diagnosis.

“I knew that this team was special,” Morissette underlines. “I’m really happy about everything they are doing for her. They are in communication with her everyday to make sure she’s OK, and to show that we are behind her through this time.”

Donations to the “LR pour Caro” campaign can be made here.

– with files from Dan Plouffe

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