Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen
Fundraising efforts on behalf of injured Smiths Falls Bears star Neil Doef have already brought in more than $15,000, even before a major fundraiser in Smiths Falls planned for Friday night.
Doef, 17, was playing for Team Canada East when he was seriously injured Sunday after a collision with a Swiss defenceman at the World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Sask. He remains in hospital in Saskatoon, surrounded by his parents, Bruce and Bobbi-Jean, and three siblings.
There’s still no official word on the exact nature of Doef’s injury, though he is believed to have suffered significant spinal trauma.
Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s president and CEO, released a statement Thursday saying that, at the Doef family’s request, “we are not able to provide any further details and will when it is deemed most appropriate.”
Renney thanked “the hockey family” for its support “that has come from across Canada and around the world” and asked the media and public to continue to respect the Doef family’s privacy.
Members of the public and businesses have responded with instant generosity to the young hockey star’s misfortune.
A trust fund established Wednesday by friends of the Doef family has already raised $8,500, including a $5,000 pledge Thursday from Shopper’s Drug Mart in Smiths Falls.
The drugstore will also collect donations at checkouts. If members of the public donate $5,000, it says it will match that with a further $5,000.
The Shopper’s Drug Mart pledge is one of “numerous” pledges of large donations that trust fund organizers, called Friends of Doef, say they have received. The group says it will make those public once the donors give their permission.
Donations to the trust fund can be made at any Scotiabank branch to the account “Doefstrong in trust.”
Other fundraising efforts have also produced quick results. As of late Thursday afternoon, Do it for Doef, an online campaign on Fundrazr.com, had collected $5,436.
In addition, students at Doef’s school, Smiths Falls District High School, raised $710 in less than an hour at a lunchtime bake sale Thursday, and fans at Wednesday’s game in Kemptville between the Smiths Falls Bears and Kemptville 73’s contributed more than $600.
More efforts to raise money are in the works. Friends of Doef is co-ordinating a fundraiser Friday night during the game between the Bears and the Cumberland Grads at the Smiths Falls Community Centre.
The “Buckets of Love for Neil” campaign will collect cash donations starting at 6:30 p.m. and continuing throughout the evening. Doef Strong T-shirts, donated by Jason Clarke of the Carleton Place Canadians, will also be on sale for $20.
In addition, the Kanata Sports Club, a non-profit organization that has raised more than $1.5 million over the years to support the sports community, has offered to raise money.
According to vice-president Chris Burton, the club already has a Carey Price jersey that will be signed and auctioned off, has donated four seats to a Senators game and is working on a TGIF event, with all proceeds going to the Doef family.
“We are just getting started,” Burton said. “Neil’s accident hits close to home, as the hockey community is a large part of our donations. We will do our best for this lad as well.”