It was a busy day for the Smilezone Foundation as it made a 'mask' commitment to groups in both Sudbury and North Bay.
Co-founder and former Stanley Cup champion Adam Graves, along with CEO Scott Bachly, were on hand to donate 150 masks Thursday to kids at NEO Kids Children's Treatment Centre, the Northeast Cancer Centre and Wordplay Jeux de Mots.
In North Bay, a similar donation of 200 masks was made to One Kids Place and North Bay Regional Health Centre.
Smilezone is volunteer group that works behind the scenes to transform waiting rooms and treatment rooms for children by various means, anything from a play area to a mural -- whatever is guaranteed to make a child smile.
Graves said the last few months have put his health, and the health of children and loved ones, into perspective.
"There's nothing more important than our kids, our health and our families," he said. "If you can allow them to have some fun, whether it's putting them on an iPad, whether it's putting a TV on the roof of the treatment centre, that's why we have the sun and a smile on our emblem."
Helping in other ways
But that mission has been tough these past few months because of the pandemic. So they're trying to help in other ways.
"We started a mask program where we're donating masks to all of these centres, but we're also doing a buy one, get one, program as well," Bachly said. "So for every mask that we're going to sell in the Sudbury area, we're going to donate a mask back to Sudbury. So we're hoping if we sell 1,000 masks, we're going to donate 1,000 masks back to these three great centres and they in turn will donate them back to the children."
Graves is not the only high-profile NHLer lending his support to the cause. They've also received help from Derek MacKenzie, Eric Lindros and Canadian singer/songwriter Alessia Cara.
"There's things that are so much bigger than the game," said Graves. "That's something we really focused in on for obvious reasons over the last six months, but you can use the game to do so many great things. Smilezone is supported incredibly by the hockey community in Canada in general, and certainly Ontario."
Joanne Tramontini, clinical manager at NEO Kids Children's Centre, said the group has been very supportive during a challenging time.
"We've actually just started seeing kids face-to-face in our centre, so they're coming in with their masks," Tramontini said. "So it'll be wonderful for us to now have them wear some of the Smilezone masks. It's a great timing for the donation."
Smilezone, to date, has completed 229 different smilezones across Ontario and in Calgary. They're also spreading out to the IWK centre in Halifax. More than 220,000 children have been impacted by their national work.
For more information on how to buy a mask, click here.