From Grand Junction Sentinal
By Nathan Deal
More than 700 fans packed the River City Sportplex on Saturday evening for Colorado Mesa University’s sixth annual Pink the Rink men’s club hockey game.
Those in attendance took in hard-hitting action on the ice while buying custom pink-laden t-shirts and jerseys to support the St. Mary’s Medical Center Cancer Survivorship Program, CMU’s charity of choice to support through the fundraiser because all of its impacts are felt locally.
This is the sixth year of Pink the Rink for the university’s hockey program, which was co-founded by CMU head coach Tim Winegard. In the previous five Pink the Rink fundraisers, more than $80,000 was raised.
Winegard said this year’s fundraising goal is $20,000, with the school accepting donations through Dec. 9. That total would push the initiative past the $100,000 mark overall.
“Because of our efforts, we’ve won the community service award for our entire league nationwide twice and we also won a congressional award from the U.S. Congress for our charity work, as well,” Winegard said. “We’ve obviously had an outpouring of support from the community that’s led to some recognition from our national league and the country, I suppose.”
The Mavericks fell 5-3 in Saturday night’s game against Northern Arizona University, but the scoreboard did little to dampen the enthusiasm on display from the players, coaches and hundreds of supporters.
The final tally will be revealed when the team presents St. Mary’s Medical Center representatives with a check during the first intermission of its next home game against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs on Friday, Dec. 9.
Winegard credited his players for the fundraiser’s success, as team members play a crucial role in raising those funds.
“It’s a testament to the maturity and the effort of the players. It’s all about the players,” Winegard said. “They do such a tremendous job and I’m so proud of all the work they’ve put in, not just this year but over all six years of Pink the Rink. This year especially, they worked unbelievably hard. I think this year will be our biggest total ever. I’ll bet we reached the $20,000 that was our goal.”
Winegard said that every penny raised goes to the Cancer Survivorship Program, and every penny that goes to them stays in Mesa County to assist and care for those battling cancer.
With the event — and the hockey program itself — becoming more popular each year, Winegard reflected on his role in co-founding the initiative while thinking about how far it’s come, both in community support and sponsor support (such as U.S. Bank paying for CMU’s custom jerseys to wear in the game and sell to fans).
“I guess we started this because there’s more to life than just playing hockey. We use the huge platform of our hockey team to give back to the local community,” Winegard said.
“Having started this six years ago with my captain at the time, Chase Engdahl, and watching it grow, and just the amount of work and just how serious the players take it, it’s a credit to their maturity and their dedication. I’m so proud of my players and my team. They deserve all the credit.”
(Originally published at https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/pink-the-rink-packs-the-house-brings-in-funds-to-fight-cancer/article_854d223e-6442-11ed-9256-0bbf9de8dcfe.html)