Over the years football stars such as Weston Dressler, Gene Makowsky, Kent Austin and Yorkton’s own Jordan Matechuk have headlined what has become Yorkton Minor Football’s biggest shindig, the Football Night in Saskatchewan.
This year the event was headlined by keynote speaker and former CFL offensive lineman Bob Poley, as well as current Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Milo and Dan Clark. Also in attendance were former CFL players Craig Carr and Will Loftus, who earlier in the day a free football camp for Yorkton youth thanks to Cornerstone Credit Union.
However, over the years the Football Night, which was originally brought about as a fundraiser to help provide Yorkton and area kids with an inexpensive way to play football, has become even larger.
In addition to the great fundraising effort that it has always been, the Football Night is now also a great night out for anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one of the 400 tickets (they sell out almost instantly). And that is exactly how the event is supposed to be, according to Yorkton Minor Football president Roby Sharpe. “We don’t want people just to donate and leave it at that,” offered Sharpe. “We want them to get something back from it so that’s why we do an event like this where people donate money through having a good time.
“It’s a night out for adults that also ends up benefiting our kids through fundraising.”
In years past the money raised went towards new equipment for all minor football players. This year, however, the money will go to a different, although equally as important, cause.
This year all money raised will go towards the construction of a state of the art clubhouse for YMF; something that YMF has desperately needed for years but has put off due to first ensuring that all children were wearing proper equipment. “What we are going to do is build a clubhouse out at Century Field that will be complete with bathrooms for players and fans as well as changing rooms for the players,” mentioned Sharpe, who is not only the president of YMF but also the head coach of the YRHS Raiders senior football team. “For years the guys had to change in a small room in the school but now they’ll have their own changing rooms out at the field.”
Before those players can utilize those changing rooms, however, many things need to be done. The first of which is raising the proper amount of funds in order to build the clubhouse.
Leading up to the Football Night in Saskatchewan, YMF had raised just under 50-thousand dollars through donations from local companies such as Cornerstone Credit Union and Key Chevrolet as well as private donations from football fans and former players alike.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders also opened their pocket book, donating a whopping 20-thousand dollars to the YMF coffers.
But while the nearly 50-thousand dollar sum is a good start, Sharpe acknowledges that it’s just a percentage of what YMF actually needs in order to see their dream of a clubhouse fulfilled. “It’s one of those things where we have to raise half a million dollars to get the facility up,” mentioned Sharpe, continuing, “That’s a lot of money for a little organization like Yorkton Minor Football so there is going to be a little work involved but it will be well worth it in the end.”
Loftus, Carr hold camp
Before ‘Football Night in Saskatchewan’ officially began at the St. Mary’s Cultural Centre on Saturday evening, two of the celebrity guests introduced themselves to the players that they are helping raise money for on Friday.
Craig Carr and Will Loftus, both former CFL stars, held a two hour free football camp for Yorkton and area youth football players that put special focus on defensive backs, however any and all players were encouraged to participate.
And while Mother Nature chose not to participate fully, the temperature dropped to four degrees with a strong wind and some rain, she still couldn’t deter some 60 local football players from storming the field to learn from the CFL veterans; something that Loftus, who won two Grey Cups (2002 with the Alouettes, 2005 with Eskimos) in his 11 year CFL career, felt only solidified his opinion of Yorkton football. “It’s awesome,” proclaimed the two-time Grey Cup champion. “That’s just the heart of Yorkton football on display. It’s the heart of kids who want more. They want to be the best, they want to represent for their town and what they believe in and they want to be a part of something like Yorkton Minor Football.”
And while the heart and determination of each young football player was certainly a factor in them braving the harsh weather on Friday afternoon, YMF president Roby Sharpe believes that the presence of both Loftus and Carr was also a reason for the strong numbers. “It’s exciting for the kids. Everyone wants to meet these guys,” offered Sharpe. “There is probably no other place in the country where you have two CFL guys that are coming down and putting a camp on for free.”