Giving Youngsters A Ticket To Ride

Six years since Willie Mitchell and his NHL pals hosted the Willie Mitchell Classic at in Port Hardy, British Columbia. But the benefit event keeps on giving back to North Islanders.

Tuesday, 09.17.2013 / 12:11 PM

It has been more than six years since Willie Mitchell and a group of his NHL pals hosted the Willie Mitchell Classic at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club in Port Hardy, British Columbia.

But the benefit event keeps on giving back to North Islanders.

Jaylon Grenier of Port Hardy, an 11-year-old aspiring triathlete, got a big boost from the Classic when it awarded him a new racing cycle and a practice spinner.

Previously, Grenier had competed in triathlons, which combine swimming, bicycling and running, with a heavy mountain bike.

After his mailed application to the Mitchell Classic was approved, Grenier's family passed along Jaylon's height and weight information to Mitchell's wife, Megan, administrator for the Classic Fund. She then ordered a Specialized Dolce racing cycle, which was custom designed to fit him and shipped to Port Hardy from Simon's Cycles in Comox.

Together with the spinner, the value of the cycle was nearly $1,800.

In his first competition after getting the bike, Jaylon had his first medal finish in a triathlon, placing third in the Shoreline Orthodontics Tri-K Triathlon in the Comox Valley while knocking more than two minutes off his biking time from the same race the previous year.

"This (bike) is way better," said Grenier. "You can go, like, 30k (per hour) on the new one. I could go maybe 15 on the mountain bike. Plus, the new one I can lift with my pinky."

Best of all, he won't have to trade in the cycle as soon as he grows.

"Some research was put into the bike," said Jaylon's mother, Sandy Grenier. "The smallest adult bike was purchased so he could have it for as long as possible."

The family had hoped to purchase the cycle locally but the customized racer was not available on the North Island and was purchased from Simon's Cycles in Comox.

Mitchell, who grew up in Port McNeill before going on to a career as an NHL defenseman, created the Classic as a way to provide financial assistance for youth on the North Island to further and achieve their athletic and academic goals.

The event included a golf tournament, evening gala and both live and silent auctions. Donations to the Classic's fund came from participants and business sponsors, and the fund continues to support young North Islanders in athletic and academic endeavors.

"Since 2006, the Willie Mitchell Classic has awarded approximately $18,000 to youth in North Island Communities," Megan Mitchell said.

That funding includes both direct contributions and assistance with gear and registration fees for minor hockey players who otherwise would not have been able to afford to play.

"I think it's great they help people who probably don't have enough money to buy things like a $2,000 bike and spinner," said Jaylon.

Filmmaker Colin Minihan of Port McNeill went on to win the Much Music Video Director of the Year Award after receiving a high-definition video camera from the Mitchell Classic fund as a 19-year-old.

"It's a camera I was happy to get because I was broke, out of film school and without it I would have been stuck shooting on SD for awhile longer," Minihan told Christine Albrecht in an online interview in 2010. "I did film my first Much Music breakout videos on that camera. It's a great camera — pretty beat-up now, but it still works."

Mitchell, who completed his second season with the Kings winning a Stanley Cup in 2012 after playing four seasons for the Vancouver Canucks, also continues to support Port McNeill Minor Hockey by donating signed game jerseys for its tournament raffle tables.

Applications can be made to the Willie Mitchell Classic fund by emailing williemitchellclassic@hotmail.com. There are no deadlines to apply.

This story, written by J.R. Rardon of the North Island Gazette, was re-printed with permission from the newspaper.

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