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You can call it bringing the community together while we’re forced to be apart. I call it City of Champions.
First there was an idea that came from within the Eskimos organization during social distancing a couple of weeks ago that nobody in the organization told anybody in Edmonton they were doing.
Why not offer to have players make themselves available to long-term care centres? Maybe they could help seniors, especially ones that have been life-long Eskimo fans, to get through this period of isolation while they’re not being allowed visitors.
The year-round members of the team, who don’t stop making themselves available in the community just because it’s the off-season, have been prevented from making their visits to the Stollery, classrooms with Stay In School programs and other interactions that so many of them are normally involved because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This idea worked for Eskimos regardless of where they are located.
The result was the making of more than a dozen or so different player “visits” with seniors at the various long-term care facilities.
Six-foot-eleven offensive lineman Matt O’Donnell didn’t have the chance to show up in person, of course. But he took the opportunity to visit groups of seniors through Zoom technology.
He introduced them to daughter Elizabeth whom he and wife Katherine welcomed to the world in the off-season.
“The Eskimos set up calls on Zoom to the long-term care centres where the residents can’t have visitors. The Zoom visits were just to chitchat and try to help keep up spirits and morale and pretty much just shoot the breeze with people, particularly ones who might not have family to call them,” O’Donnell said of his three consecutive days of taking care of his list of zoom visits, with three of four seniors at a time a dozen days ago.
The 31-year-old, who will be in his eighth season when he next gets to play again, said he enjoyed the visits immensely.
“I got to learn about them and a lot of them were pretty interesting people. A few of them were ex-military who were in World War II, the Korean conflict.
“I got to show them our newborn baby, talk a bit about myself and tell them some funny stories. It was a really good time. I was elated with my end of the experience. No one likes to be alone, especially in these tough times. People have to bond together to make it better.”
Other Eskimos who made Zoom visits from wherever they are currently located to other long term care facilities were quarterback Trevor Harris and linemen Kwaku Boateng, Kwabena Asare and Mark Mackie.
The Eskimos also got a request from a couple of long-time fans for a player to a send a video to a fellow Eskimo fan and patient recovering from a serious illness.
Defensive lineman Almondo Sewell responded to that. Nobody sent out a press release.
A few weeks ago the Eskimos received a letter from Edmonton fan Rod Groening, currently residing in Winnipeg, about son Hudson, who was about to celebrate his seventh birthday without being able to have a birthday party because of social distancing.
Hudson’s father Rod explained that despite living in the home of the defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers, the young man remained an Eskimo fan and wondered if the team might be able to do something to help him have a memorable birthday without having his birthday party.
The Eskimos got back to him and asked if he had a favourite player. Rod said his son was a huge fan of Harris.
“Hudson had an incredible birthday,” said his dad.
“He was so proud of his message from Trevor he shared it with all his friends in our block and I shared it with all my Bomber friends.
“We made a big cardboard face of Hudson and it turned out amazing. Hudson had a parade of about 25 cars drive by our house to wish him happy birthday. He wanted to send a thank you message to Trevor so we made a video.
“You cheer for teams and organizations for so many different reasons but some just stand out more. Once an Eskimo fan, always an Eskimo fan.”
It’s not just the football team that’s out there.
Right about now, the Edmonton Oil Kings should be well into the WHL playoffs and team mascot Louie The Lion should be plenty busy working the games in Rogers Place.
Louie got lonely Friday and decided, while maintaining social distancing, to take a walk around the streets of the Ormsby neighbourhood, to do the birthday thing. He waved at kids from windows, “air-fived” and posed for pictures and videos in their front yards with at least the length of a hockey stick of separation while he made his walkabout.
“We know there have been a lot of young ones who have been affected and that their birthday parties have been cancelled and that they haven’t been able to see their friends,” said Oil Kings executive Daniel Troiani.
“It was a chance to give back to a few kids and families and it was pretty cool. So we’re going to make it a thing.”
He’s urging fans to make contact via @EdmOilKings to arrange for Louie to take a wander down their street.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020