Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A bunch of smoothie operators

SMD fundraiser let me be the judge this time

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It has been drawn to my attention I am lousy at providing readers with important updates on previous groundbreaking columns.

Take my buddy Big Daddy Tazz, for instance. Way back in February, which happens to be I Love to Read Month, I told you the barrel-chested, charity-minded standup comedian had set a lofty goal -- promoting literacy by reading to 1,000 Manitoba schoolchildren.

He set that goal the day I joined him at Neil Campbell School in East Kildonan, where he kicked off his quest by reading to 48 kids. "Only 952 more to go," he snorted at the time.

So how did this hilarious father of two boys -- Josh, 19, and Khyler, 6 -- make out in his 1,000-kid pledge?

I'll tell you about that in a minute, but first I want to talk about what happened last week at St. Vital Centre's food court during the second-annual Celebrity Smoothie-Making Contest in support of SMD Foundation/Easter Seals Manitoba.

I do not wish to brag, but I was the defending champion.

The title was supposed to go to Paul Swiston, a 325-pound offensive lineman with the Blue Bombers, but the judges made a mistake tallying the scores, and no one noticed until after I'd walked away with the coveted commemorative coffee cup.

"I was robbed!" Paul politely pointed out when we sat down to get reacquainted before this year's blender battle.

This time, the organizers of the event, sponsored by Booster Juice, decided it made more sense for me to be on the expert judging panel, which included my buddy, Tazz, and Booster Juice franchisee Graham Taylor.

The way it worked is we judges would sit there doing nothing while the competitors -- Swiston, Bomber punter Mike Renaud, three-time Olympic medallist Susan Auch, Breakfast TV's Drew Kozub, CTV's Shawn Churchill and Global's Mike Koncan -- made smoothies via the technique of telling someone behind the counter which ingredients to stuff in the blender.

Then we judges would slurp a sample, make frowny faces and regale the audience with informative and entertaining smoothie-related remarks, such as: "Yum!"

Or, as Tazz said of one entry: "It may not make it onto the menu, but I got some on my shirt."

I would like to tell you a horrific injustice was corrected and Swiston -- who is easily larger than a recreational vehicle -- was the victor, but it would be a lie.

Paul's concoction -- the only one presented in a clear glass -- resembled (and I mean this in the best possible way) toxic sludge. "I call it the Angry Leprechaun," the fun-loving lineman explained. "I was going for a green colour."

How did it taste? Well, if you can imagine being beaten to death with a 3,000-pound banana, you will have a pretty good idea what we judges experienced.

In the end, the champion was Kozub, whose high-octane smoothie, dubbed Wake Me Up Before You Gojo, tasted like a mutant lime on steroids and even caused our eyeballs to pucker.

"I will definitely be putting this victory on my resumé," Drew told me. "I'd like to share this with the world."

Amid the whir of blenders, SMD Foundation spokesman Armando Versace (Yes, that is the coolest name ever) said the competition raises cash and awareness for the charity.

"One out of every six Manitobans is currently living with a disability," Armando said. "We support over 47,000 Manitoba children, youth and adults with disabilities. In the province, there are over 200,000 people with a disability. People don't realize the extent of it."

Which somehow brings us back to my buddy, Tazz, and his goal of reading to 1,000 kids. His quest saw him spend a month driving everywhere from Russell and Roblin and Inglis -- "Inglis only has 59 kids in the whole school" -- to "Carman in a blinding snowstorm."

"It was great," Tazz said, rubbing his smoothie-filled belly. "I read the book Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Bullies. That way I could get my message across to young kids about how to deal with bullying."

Which is inspiring and everything, but how many (bad word) kids did you read to, Tazz?

"Oh," he chirped, "I read to 3,066 kids. But when I told that to my six-year-old son, Khyler, he looked up at me and said: 'No, daddy, you read to 3,067, because you read to me every night!'"

The really great news is, my soft-hearted buddy Tazz vowed to beat his reading record next year.

And I'll tell you how that turns out. At least I think I will.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2014 A2

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