The puck has yet to drop for the Neepawa Natives season home opener, but that hasn't stopped players from getting involved in the community early this year.
As has become an annual tradition for the team, the Natives headed over to Hazel M. Kellington school – Neepawa's elementary school - Friday morning after a morning practice to take part in the school's Terry Fox Run.
And while some members of the roster joined in the run with Neepawa's youngsters, others stayed at the school to help barbecue and prepare hot dogs for the fundraiser picnic that follows the quick run around the community.
“The kids in Neepawa really look up to our players so it's important for us to be a part of events like this in the community,” Natives assistant coach Cam Tibbett said. “It always makes the day a bit more exciting for the kids with our players there. And I know the guys have a lot of fun with it, too.”
Following the run, hundreds of students and parents filled Hazel M. Kellington's playground for the school's Terry Fox picnic fundraiser, where hot dogs and pop are sold to raise funds in support of cancer research.
Players dished out hot dogs and drinks, and then found a spot on the grass to enjoy a picnic lunch and some joking around with the students.
“It was really good, it's always great to get out there and meet with the kids,” Natives defenceman Lyndon Soper said of the run. “It's important for the kids to realize what Terry Fox and the run is all about, so it's good for us to be a part of that.”
The second year Natives player also pointed out some of the kids like to take the Natives' participation in the run as a challenge.
“They always try to beat us,” Soper explained with a chuckle. “There were a couple kids who beat some of our guys this year. They're actually pretty quick.”
The Natives team volunteered to barbecue and hand out hot dogs earlier in the week as well, on Wednesday, as part of the community's annual Terry Fox Run barbecue fundraiser.