After weeks of tireless work from many in and around the community, the Maurice Chaput arena in Ste. Anne will open next year and plans are being put in place to have it running for years to come.
Sarah Normandeau is part of a group that has poured their hearts and souls into saving the arena and their efforts were capped off with Rally For Our Rink on Saturday. "It was so awesome to see everyone show up," Normandeau said Monday. "The community rallied and it wasn't just our community, there were so many people from all over and it was just so nice to see everyone together."
A big attraction was the Neal Stoesz Memorial 4 on 4 ball hockey tournament. Normandau says they had 19 teams involved and the winners of the Adult Division had a special plan in mind for when they won. "So, when we went out after the championship game, I went to give them their envelope with $500, they said that they had decided to donate it back to the cause. They joked it was why they were trying so hard, they wanted to win so they could give it back."
Through all the fun, memories, and laughs, there was a goal of raising money. "I'm not going to lie, there were times where it felt like the Jerry Lewis Telethon", Normandau jokes. "We had a big easel in the front all day and every time we counted the money, we put a new total up. I think with the matched funds we started at around $13,000 and then we were up to $20,000, then towards the end of the day, it was $51,000 plus. That's before we take into account tickets from the concert so we're probably closer to $60,000.
Normandau says raising that kind of money in a single day is beyond amazing but thanks to an anonymous donor, whatever the total happens to be, it will be matched. "After the Hockeyville rally, this couple contacted me, they were super bummed out for our community. They watched our entire rally and they wanted to help and they are in a position to help. Their grandkids were Aces and played here. They were so excited to be a part of it. Their daughter was here to be the spokesperson. They committed to matching up to $100,000 and we're over halfway to that. It's such a phenomenal gift to receive."
A special part of Saturday night Normandau says, was when the Mayor of Ste. Anne, Yvan St. Vincent, took to the stage with a special announcement. "He was the one who said the arena is opening next year. That part is taken care of. But, the really cool part is now we can put some dreams behind the initiative and the wave of what we're on right now. We can stand back and think about what we really want to have done here. They have big plans. It's so exciting to see that we're not in the sink-or-swim position anymore of always having to fix or repair. Now, we can think about things the community wants to see in that building that go far above just fixing."
On top of that, there are already plans or dreams that have been discussed moving forward. "There's a really cool concept that everyone has fallen in love with. We'd take the lobby off, build all the way to the road, and create a nice lobby that connects the arena to the curling rink. There are a lot of ideas floating around. We have a great council and a great Mayor that want to listen to the community. The community is speaking up about things they want to see and I love that they are being heard."
Saturday is a prime example of how everyone came together to make it happen and Normandau says she can't put into words just how impactful that all was. "We know what goes into these types of events and what type of volunteers you need to do these things. The number of people who came out on Saturday who came out simply to help... the entire kid's carnival was run by teenagers, just to see that and rally the people who wanted to help out, it's special.
Time and time again, people from Ste. Anne has talked about just how much they appreciate the love and support from the surrounding communities that helped get them to where they are. Normandau says that they will forever be willing to give back. "We absolutely will be there for anyone or any community. We know other arenas have needs and other communities in a similar position to us. I don't see us not being helpful to those arenas. We know what they're going through and we know the passion of wanting our kids and grandkids to play in our hometowns. Anyone who wants to reach out, 100% can. I'm sure none of us will back away from giving any kinds of tricks or tips that could maybe help."
Through it all, Sarah says it comes down to one core piece to make it all possible. "People. It takes people. People always show up and it's just super awesome to have that."