After an internal financial audit, the Cranbrook 2019 Friendship Kootenay Ice hockey team alleges that more than $30,000 has been misappropriated by “a trusted volunteer,” according to a team press release.
The hockey team, which has been planning a trip to Japan to participate in a tournament in two weeks, announced the missing funds on Friday, April 12, after publishing and distributing a media release.
The RCMP has been notified, according to the statement.
Crystal Kenyon, the travel chair of the team, says everyone is devastated when she spoke to the Cranbrook Townsman during an interview on Friday afternoon.
“It’s devastating and so disappointing,” she said.
Kenyon says players and families have worked for more than 18 months to collect money for the journey through fundraisers such as silent auctions and bottle drives.
There are 17 kids, between 11-12 years old, who are set to go on the trip.
“It’s 17 kids that have been working their butts off to get all of this fundraising done,” said Kenyon. “We have done at minimum 18 different fundraisers trying to do this … we have done so many different fundraisers over the past 18 months, and these kids have worked so incredibly hard to get there.”
The team is currently evaluating its finances and exploring opportunities to make up for the missing funds to ensure the trip can still go ahead.
“We are kind of scrambling and trying to find where we can come up with the money so we can finish paying for the trip for the kids, because we leave on April 23,” said Kenyon.
The team has been fundraising to go to the Peewee International Friendship Hockey Tournament, which is hosted in Japan.
“The values of this tournament are about friendship and fair play. This wasn’t a tryout, it was a lottery to find out who got to play on this team. It’s very difficult because we have kids on the team from all walks of life, and not everyone can afford to come up with this extra money right out of their pockets to continue to send their kids.”
She says the kids have been extremely excited about the opportunity given to them.
“This is going to be a trip of a lifetime for these kids,” said Kenyon. “The tournament is like a mini-Olympics. There are teams from Australia, New Zealand, Korea — there are teams from all over the world going to be there.”
Kenyon notes there is only one other Canadian team that was invited to the tournament.
“These boys are half of what is representing Canada. They get to stay with billet parents and they get to be emersed in all of the culture,” she said.
The club plans to do more fundraising this weekend, including at the Kin Club of Cranbrook Outdoor and Recreation Show where they are doing a 50/50 draw and will have silent auction items.
If people would like to help, donations can be made to the team to help them go on their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan. For more information, Kenyon says people can contact them through email.
“Any help the community would like to give us would be really appreciated — more than anybody could possibly know,” said Kenyon.
“Thank you to everybody that has helped so far and come to the table. We have had some people already that have heard about what is going on, and have offered help and have offered to support us with extras even though they already helped us. It’s a really sad, devastating situation that we are in at the moment and the people in our community are absolutely amazing on how they come together to support kids to play sports in this town.”