The third annual Freeze the House Charity Bonspiel in support of the Central Alberta Ronald McDonald House started throwing stones on Friday afternoon at the Pidherney Centre curling rink in Red Deer.
The weekend-long “funspiel” features 62 teams, eight of which are junior teams (open to those under 18). The event wraps up at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
There was also a Friday night mixer to raise money, as well as a live and silent auction during a dinner and dance tonight at the Sheraton Hotel.
The event raised $153,000 last year for the house that provides affordable accommodations for children and their families who live outside the city and are receiving treatment at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
That went a long way in helping with the annual $1.1-million operating budget, said Larry Mathieson, CEO of Ronald McDonald House for Southern Alberta and Central Alberta.
Mathieson said Freeze the House 2014 is on target to pull in at least that much again.
“It’s a fun event and each year it raises more money. … This is our signature fundraising event for the Red Deer house and it’s exciting to see it grow along with the community and donor support of the house,” he said. “From what we can tell, we are on our way to exceed last year’s totals.”
People can also donate online and pledges from that have so far reached over $6,800.
To date, the top team for pledges was the Guardian Ambulance Spouses, who had raised $2,200 just before the bonspiel began, with the RMH Rockers nipping at their heels with $2,160 and The Stealth Rockers coming in third with $860. The top individual participant was Marla Cohen at $1,775, followed by Stefanie Donovan at $835 and Sherri Ryckman at $605.
Special bonspiel guests this year include a professional female curler for the first time. Emma Miskew has played third on the Ottawa-based Team Rachel Homan for the past 11 years. The team is the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts champions and took home the bronze at the 2013 World Women’s Curling Championships. Miskew, 24, has been curling for 19 years.
She is joined by Reid Carruthers, a substitute teacher from Winnipeg who throws rocks for Team Jeff Stoughton as second. Carruthers’ curling achievements include the 2013 Brier silver medalists, 2013 Manitoba Men’s Champion and 2012 Canada Cup Champion, among many more.
The pair toured the Ronald McDonald House on Friday afternoon and will provide curling tips over the weekend as well as helping out the teams.
“Pay the Pro” is an option that allows participants to pay a $20 donation in exchange for Miskew or Carruthers taking the next shot for their team.
Four-time Brier champion Kevin Martin from Edmonton and John Morris, Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic gold medalist from Chestermere, were last year’s special guests.
For a small donation, participants can also enter into the Draw to the Button competition. In 2013, Darcy Bruce threw a perfect shot to the button and won the grand prize of $10,000.
The bonspiel, presented by Fas Gas Plus, is conducted in round robin fashion and open to everyone of any skill level.
“It’s steeped in Central Alberta culture, really. Every small town around here has a sheet of ice and a curling rink,” Mathieson said. “We wanted to do a family-oriented event where you can participate even if you’re not a really good curler and just come out for a good day of fun.”