THE countdown to the end of summer may be on but three Winnipeg Jets took full advantage of a warm, cloudless day to get in their swings and support a worthy cause.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd and teammates Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn were on the tee Wednesday at the Stars FORE Special O charity fundraising golf tournament at Glendale Golf and Country Club.
Support of the Special Olympics movement is an important element for Ladd. He has an uncle with Down Syndrome and his mother continues to work with special-needs kids in elementary school in B.C.
"I've been heavily involved with Special O first and foremost because I know it's an important event for them," said Ladd, who returned to Winnipeg from his off-season B.C. home for the tournament. "During the year it's tougher to make it out to these kinds of things. I had the time and I figured I'd come on in to help out.
"It's just been a big part of our life and something nice to be involved in. I think any time you spend time with these athletes, they're so genuine and excited about what they're doing, it leaves you with a really good feeling when you're hanging out with them."
Wheeler said since he was already back in Winnipeg from his off-season spent mainly in Florida, he was eager to help out one of Ladd's favourite causes.
"Just seeing the work Laddie has done with his time and efforts to bring awareness for this organization," Wheeler said.
"Over the last couple of years I know he's been trying to round up some guys to help him out and any time you can help somebody when they're doing such a good job for a worthwhile cause, it's worth your time to get out here and try to help them out."
Raising money to help support Special Olympics activities was a primary goal Wednesday, but so was athletes just hanging out with athletes, the Jets players said.
"It makes you feel good what they're trying to do," Wheeler said. "You see how excited they are to meet us and that kind of connection that you can kind of have with what they're trying to do.
"They're no different than we are. They're trying to go out and do their best every day and achieve their goals, so that's always fun no matter what level you're at, professionally or whatever it might be. Everyone has goals they're trying to achieve and they're working for it every day.
"To see them achieve some of those goals, that makes everything worthwhile."
Sharing stories is a key part of the golf day, Ladd said.
"It's nice to just mingle and to meet athletes," he said.