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Kingston couple in 'time crunch' to reach $90K goal for new ice pad in Eabametoong

A couple in Kingston, Ont., are asking for the public's help in a final push to raise approximately $10,000 for a new ice surface for a girl's hockey team in Eabametoong First Nation, also known as Fort Hope.

The fundraiser recently got a boost from Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs

A Kingston couple say they have about $10,000 left in their final goal of $90,000 to help install a concrete pad for the Rez Girls 64 girls hockey team in Eabametoong First Nation. (Rez Girls On (New) Ice / gofundme)

A couple in Kingston, Ont., are asking for the public's help in a final push to raise funds for a new ice surface for a girl's hockey team in Eabametoong First Nation, also known as Fort Hope, after getting an unexpected boost from an NHL player. 

Katie and Steven Koopman initially started a fundraising campaign in October 2018 to raise a total of $90,000 for a concrete ice pad, which could be used by the community's Rez Girls 64 Wolves hockey team.

"This is a dedicated, inspiring group of 12-year-old girls who live in not-so-fantastic conditions in a remote community," Katie Koopman said, "and they are just trying their hardest to be kids by participating in a sport that most children get a chance to participate in, in any other city across Canada."

Katie and Steve Koopman of Kingstong have almost reached their fund-raising goal of $90,000. They want to build a concrete ice pad in Eabametoong First Nation. 8:01

NHL player joins effort

Recently, Koopman said she received a call from NHL Toronto Maple Leaf's hockey player Mitchell Marner asking "how he might help," as he already has his own foundation known as the Marner Assist Foundation.

"He has asked if people would donate to his fund, in the name of the Rez Girls, and he would match up to $5,000," Koopman explained, "and in less than 24 hours, that $5,000 was already matched."

With the money raised through the team's GoFundMe page since October and the $5,000 from Marner, Koopman said they only need about $10,000 more to reach their $90K goal.

'This is a community investment'

Eabametoong First Nation is a fly-in remote community that's located approximately 350 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont. According to Koopman, Rez Girls 64 are at a "disadvantage" as the start of their practice season is delayed due to the conditions of their old pebbled ice pad.

"They have an arena ... [with] a raised pebbled pad but it's never really even and it needs to be flooded during freezing temperatures, which is now" Koopman explained, "so they miss out on a good two or three months of being able to practice."

Koopman said the Rez Girls 64 need 'a physical outlet, a social outlet, and they need an emotional outlet,' which means 'they need a proper ice rink.' (Rez Girls On (New) Ice / gofundme)

She said having a concrete pad installed would be beneficial for the hockey team as cooling pads can be laid in the fall and the rink can be flooded and frozen in time for the season.

"So they start the season late and it ends early for them. So if they had a cement pad and cooling pad laid on top they could lengthen their season substantially," she said.

At the end of February, Koopman said an ice road will be opened for approximately two months making it possible to transport large construction materials and other goods into the community.

"Now we are down to a time crunch," Koopman added, "and it is important to have all the money in place so we can purchase the cement and start sending it up north," adding that the community will wait until spring to start installing the new concrete pad.

She said the project for a new ice surface in Eabametoong "is a community investment," as the cement surface can be used in the summer for roller hockey and other sports.

Donations for a new concrete pad for the Rez Girls 64 Wolves can be made to the Marner Assist Fund and participants are encouraged to use the hashtag #MakeanAssist when they donate.