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Ball hockey with different goal

Fundraiser aims to aid research into birth defect

Posted: 02/3/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Rob and Michelle Tetrault with their children Alexandre, who has cytomegalovirus, and Arielle. The Tetraults have organized  Le Classique winter ball hockey tournament to raise money for research into the disease.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Rob and Michelle Tetrault with their children Alexandre, who has cytomegalovirus, and Arielle. The Tetraults have organized Le Classique winter ball hockey tournament to raise money for research into the disease. Photo Store

As a kid, Rob Tetrault spent most of his time inside hockey arenas.

His favourite memories of those times in Winnipeg rinks were winning provincial championships.

These days, he enjoys watching the Jets score goals and win games.

"I like the sheer emotion after a goal. That is the one time it's acceptable to randomly hug, high-five and cheer," he said. "We're all united for the same thing."

This week, Tetrault is uniting people for a different goal.

He is organizing Le Classique, a three-on-three winter ball hockey tournament outside Le Garage Café in St. Boniface. Tetrault is raising money for cytomegalovirus (CMV), a debilitating congenital birth defect that affects one in 150 babies in North America.

Five years ago, Tetrault had never heard of CMV. That all changed after his son, Alexandre, was born.

The virus is known to attack the fetus during pregnancy, causing brain damage.

Today, it affects Alexandre's speech and motor skills. The five-year-old didn't start speaking until he was three.

"I was worried, but I knew whatever it was, we'd figure it out," an emotional Tetrault said recently. "I'm very passionate about this. I want to raise awareness and eradicate it."

The virus can cause serious side-effects, including paralysis and death.

"Kids will make fun of him because he's not the most adapted at walking, jogging or playing sports. But he's tough," he said. "I want him to set big goals for himself and I want him to achieve those goals. He might win the Nobel Prize one day."

Tetrault put on the event for the first time last year. The tournament raised $7,000 to go to research and wheelchairs for children with CMV.

This year, he hopes to double the amount.

"There's people who like to come out and play hockey, but there's also people coming out to support our cause," he said. "It's such a festive atmosphere, and people are having a good time."

This summer, the father of two is opening the first Canadian CMV charity that will focus on raising awareness about CMV and help find a cure.

Every dollar raised at this year's tournament will go to the national charity he's setting up.

"We want to raise money and do our part," he said. "If we can eradicate this, I'll have a huge party."

Tetrault's wife, Michelle, does her part by educating people about CMV at the tournament. Her goal is to help find a cure for CMV so other kids don't have to live with it.

"I want people to know why they're coming. The whole point is to spread awareness," she said. "If I can get through to a couple of people, then it's all worthwhile for me."

She said despite his difficulties, Alexandre is a fighter.

"He knows he's different, but he doesn't give up," Michelle said. "He's my miracle."

She said she's overwhelmed by the community's support.

"It was a simple idea that really took off and involves people outside and all over Winnipeg," she said. "People are just coming out to play good old-fashioned hockey."

Alexandre's parents aren't the only ones volunteering within the community. When he isn't playing with his toy trains, the youngster also wants to do his share by giving back.

"Just the other day, he put a shirt on and said, 'This shirt is a bit tight. You know what we should do, Dad? We should give this to less-fortunate kids,'" Rob said. "I was so proud of him."

This year, the tournament is set for this weekend, with up to 40 teams participating.

It's $120 for each team to register, with a maximum of seven players. If you'd like to participate, visit the website www.leclassique.ca to register.

 

If you know a special volunteer in Winnipeg, please contact Elizabeth Fraser at fraser.a.liz@gmail.com.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 B2

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