The Winnipeg Jets have brought much joy to thousands of hockey fans over the past year, but their most meaningful impact may come from the team's charity arm.
The Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation announced Monday it's giving more than $1 million to 43 local charities, a sum that took everybody involved with the team, including co-owner Mark Chipman, by surprise.
"The amount of capital raised far exceeded what we anticipated. It's a big responsibility. This has always been part of our mandate; now we have a lot more horsepower," he said.
During the 2011-12 NHL season, money was raised through the sale of 50-50 tickets at Jets home games, the sale of Jets licence plates, the Mike Keane Celebrity Classic, the Ranger Golf Tournament, the 2010-11 gala dinner and various donations and third-party events.
By comparison, the Manitoba Moose Yearling Foundation, True North's charity arm when it ran an AHL franchise, donated $2.3 million over 15 years. Chipman said in the early years of the Moose, the foundation was lucky if it could donate $100,000 annually.
The foundation's off-season work is far from finished. Later this summer, an announcement will be made regarding its contribution to both minor hockey in Winnipeg and the True North Hockey Academy. The latter not only teaches underprivileged children how to play hockey and outfits them with new equipment but also provides positive role models and uses hockey as a means of helping them become the best kids that they can be.
Last year, about 150 children went through the program, and Chipman said that number is expected to triple next year.
Dwayne Green, executive director of the foundation, said he and his team were most surprised by the fans' enthusiasm for 50-50 tickets and the Jets licence plates.
"We're over the moon with what we've been able to accomplish," Green said.
The organizations receiving the money feel the same way.
Roger Berrington, director of Canu, a mentor-driven program for kids living in poverty that received $25,000 from the foundation, said the money will be put toward programming, equipment and supplies for soccer, baseball and track and field, including running shoes, T-shirts and shorts.
"We want to make some connections with the kids' families and plant the seed of post-secondary education with them," he said.
Villa Rosa, a safe haven for young, single, pregnant women, most of whom are aboriginal, also received $25,000. Mindy Barsky-Veitch, its director of development, said the money will be put toward an outdoor teaching garden that will be used for naming ceremonies, meditation circles and smudging.
"It will be a place where they feel they belong and a cultural link for women who are far away from home," she said.
Some quick math indicates the Jets foundation will have a substantial surplus even after making these donations. Chipman said the foundation decided to hold some money back, perhaps for an endowment, because it's far too early to tell if last year's fundraising efforts will be matched next season. He said he'd like to be able to maintain a minimum donation of $1 million annually.
The foundation also added a pair of new directors on Monday. Longtime original Winnipeg Jets centre and current city Coun. Thomas Steen and Brandy Ladd, wife of current Jets captain Andrew Ladd, have joined the board.