By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region – Several years ago Dave McGrath, inspired by Relay for Life events, wondered if he could skate for four straight hours at a time. He found he could. He then wondered if he could not only skate for 24 straight hours, but also inspire others to do the same. So far he has done so twice and in doing so, raised an impressive $30,000 for the Hope Lodge in Worcester. And starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept.? 20, Dave and his committee will be hosting the third annual “Skating for Hope.”
Dave's entire extended family are once again joining him in planning all aspects of the event, including his father Paul and mother MaryBeth, who still live in Westborough.
For the family, particularly Dave, the fundraiser is personal on several levels. Dave is the night manager for Hope Lodge, a facility run under the auspices of the American Cancer Society that offers free temporary lodging and support for cancer patients traveling to Massachusetts for ongoing treatment.
And as a high school student just entering his senior year at St. John's High School, Dave was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Now, as a 21-year cancer survivor, he frequently speaks on behalf of the 15-40.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting early cancer awareness in young people.
Skating for Hope was held at the Buffone rink in Worcester for the first two years. This year it will be held at the College of the Holy Cross's Hart Center. The college (which is also his father's alma mater) is generously donating the ice time, Dave said.
The premise of the fundraiser is that it is a mix of open skating times for anyone who would like to try to skate as much as possible over a 24-hour period and scheduled hockey games between local high school and college alumni teams. Participants can choose to have friends and family members sponsor them for the skating portion, similar to how other fundraising events run.
So far there are four scheduled hockey games: College Alumni Game (including Holy Cross, Boston College and Boston University Alum); Saint John's High School Alum vs. Westborough High School Alum Game; Youth Hockey Game with Worcester Jr. Sharks; and WPD/WFD/Buffone Stars/Special Guests vs. Special Guests/Buffone Stars/WPD/WFD.
“I will skate in all parts, including the hockey games,” McGrath said. “But those just skating won's be on the ice during the games, only during the open session.”
There will also be a special figure skating demonstration, a presentation of the classic hockey movie “Slap Shot,” and a “Star Wars hour” featuring a costume contest. The Worcester Sharks mascot, Finz, will make a breakfast appearance.? Other special guests will include Paul “Dr. Hook” D”Amato, one of the stars of “Slap Shot,” and Comcast SportsNet reporter Sarah Baicker.
There will also be raffles throughout the evening. Prizes include donations received from local businesses, two tickets to a Pearl Jam concert, a hockey stick signed by members of the Boston Bruins and the grand prize, a Super Chexx Hockey Game, valued over $2,000.
Monies raised from the previous two events have helped to purchase a number of things at Hope Lodge designed to make life more comfortable for its guests, including new large-screen televisions.
The fundraising team is still accepting raffle items and other donations for the event. Items on their wish list include: gift cards to grocery stores/restaurants in the Worcester area (food is supplied to participants throughout the event); bottled water, fruit energy bars and baked goods (to sell at a concession stand); pizza (for the midnight portion of the event); and breakfast items.
The committee is also seeking donations of gently used skates to lend to those who may want to participate but don's have their own pair.
“If anyone would like to donate an old pair that's in good shape, we will take or pick them up from you,” Dave said. He is hoping that arrangements can be made from another source as well to get a large amount of pairs to use.