It takes a lot of initiative to start a fundraiser. It also takes a lot of love. Whether it is an organized walk, a dinner and dance, or a hockey game. This past fall, Brooke Maxwell lost her aunt Jacquie to ALS. Inspired by her aunt’s love, Brooke took up the torch to raise awareness about ALS and create her own fundraiser. The tool Brooke used to convey this message was the sport she loves. A sport her aunt Jacquie loved to watch Brooke play.
Brooke has been playing hockey since she was four years old. “I love everything about hockey from its fast pace to the teamwork but I’d have to say my favourite part is the friends you make and the bonds you create” shares the young, but experienced forward. At age 14, she has 10 years of playing under her belt – the last two years with the U15 AAA team, the Westman Wildcats. Jacquie Harmon, Brooke’s great-aunt, loved to follow Brooke’s progress online in all the sports she played – cheering her on!
Jacquie absolutely loved sports. She loved watching her son Kyle participate in those sports. Whether it was hockey or softball – it was Jacquie’s favourite thing to do. And
when she could not do that, she loved pasture watching and spending time with the cattle.
Jacquie was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease in December of 2019. She was big on spending time with family – always encouraging everyone to get together. The barbecues were a big hit, creating precious memories. The kids loved being with her at those events. Among Brooke’s favourite memories of her auntie Jacquie was “sitting at a family barbecue last summer and talking with her about softball and all of my sports. She really loved family, especially all the great
nieces and nephews”. Jacquie passed away on November 14th, 2022.
This was the first time the kids had experienced the loss of a family member. Brooke wanted to share with people not intimately familiar with ALS what it’s like. She sums it up by saying “it’s really difficult to watch someone after their diagnosis [of ALS] because their mind is still there and they’re still the same person but they eventually lose the ability to communicate with you. They become trapped in their own body and it’s very scary for the person and the people around them”.
Other hockey teams in her league had conducted fundraisers at their games. Brooke wanted to take this opportunity to raise awareness of ALS. So she talked to her coaches; she talked with her managers; she talked with the Parkland Rangers whom they would be playing. With their blessing, and the Rangers also eager to participate, Brooke set about putting things in place. First was the purple hockey tape. Both teams wrapped their sticks in purple tape – the colour adopted by ALS societies across Canada to raise awareness. She also added a donation jar and gave a speech at the game.
It was an exciting game, held on November 27th, with about 100 people in attendance at the Doc Bonar Arena in Deloraine, Manitoba. The Westman Wildcats came out victorious in this match against the
Parkland Rangers. Brooke herself contributed six points with three goals and three assists. And $220 was raised from the donation jar to go towards supporting people with ALS/MND (Motor Neuron Disease). When it comes to raising awareness about this life-altering disease – we all win!
Every year in June the ALS Society of Manitoba hosts a Walk to End ALS. One is held in Winnipeg and one is held in Brandon. The goal of these walks is to raise awareness of ALS, raise money for research into finding a cure, and also raise funds for those individuals in Manitoba who are living with ALS/MND.
Eight short months ago, Jacquie was able to join us at the Walk to End ALS in Brandon. Her family gathered around to support her. “We did the Walk in Brandon this summer! It was our first time, but won’t be our last!” said Melaine Maxwell.
ALS affects more people around us than we may realize and the numbers seem to be growing. Brooke learned that there were more players on her team than just herself who had a connection in some way to someone with ALS. Is there someone in your life with ALS? We hope to see you at one of our walks this June. The dates are already set and the planning is underway, so mark your calendar. Winnipeg’s walk will be on June 17th at Assiniboine Park. Brandon’s walk will be the following weekend June 24th at the Riverbank Discovery Centre. Come walk with us. Come walk for someone you know who is affected by ALS. Come walk for Jacquie.