FORTUNE, N.L. — The United Towns Minor Hockey Association in Fortune was named Association of the Year during Hockey NL’s annual general meeting.
The award was presented in Gander earlier this month.
The group was also recognized by the Town of Grand Bank, being named Volunteer Group of the Year.
Organization president Lynn Downey said in an e-mail to The Southern Gazette they were humbled and proud of the awards.
“Without the help and dedication of so many volunteers in our association and in the communities, this would not be possible,” she wrote, “so a big thank you is warranted to all of these volunteers and we hope that you continue to be such a big part of our association in the coming season.”
It was not long ago that the organization, comprised of players from Grand Bank to Lord’s Cove, were questioning their future.
Faced with the theft of funds by a former member of the board of directors from 2015-17, as well as mounting debt, it seemed unlikely that the organization could continue.
“It was later determined by the RCMP through an active investigation filed by the association, that money stolen was calculated to be in the thousands,” Lynn Downey, organization president, explained in an e-mail to The Southern Gazette.
Michelle LeRiche, who served as treasurer for the association, pled guilty in April to one count of theft over $5,000 and three counts of forgery. She was set to appear in Supreme Court in Grand Bank on June 21.
On top of the stolen funds, the association was also faced with a large debt in the amount of $21,400.
A breakdown of the monies owned by the association provided by Downey indicated they owed $16,450 to the Town of Fortune, another $3,000 to Hockey NL, and their bank account was overdraft $1,950.
In the statement provided by Downey it was noted the association was upset, mad and heartbroken to see that the funds raised over the years for the program were gone.
Digging in their heels
“Unsure of what to do or where to go for help, the association’s executive met to decide if they would fold or continue,” wrote Downey. “There was no question, we had to dig in our heels and strive once again to get all of our kids skating and to keep minor hockey an active part of the surrounding communities.”
Following registrations for the 2018 season, the group began to fundraise, selling bars, tickets and operating the canteen in the area, as well as catering Christmas parties.
Business and individuals also donated to the cause. Contributions were made by Scotia Bank, Dynamic Air Shelters and Bantam parent Lisa Hiscock through her painting business.
“We achieved what we set out to do, we kept the association in good standing and have completely paid off all of the debt that we were left with,” Downey said.