When people think back on a professional athlete’s career, a lot of the times they can name two or three teams that the athlete represented throughout the course of their career, sometimes even more. It feels like it’s hard to name players that have stuck it out with one organization throughout their entire career and it feels as if that day in sports is slowly becoming extinct. When the players do stick around for their entire career, the city never forgets their name, even after their sports career has concluded. It’s almost as if they become Alumni of the city they once wore with pride on the front of their jerseys. For former Maple Leafs right-winger Ron Ellis, he respectfully wore the blue and white maple leaf on his chest for 16 seasons and his name and presence continue to shine a bright light on the city of Toronto and the GTA.
Roughly 10 years ago, Ron Ellis started up the Ron Ellis Team Canada Foundation; a non-profit organization that initially started to raise funds for a cancer research project that Ron Ellis was involved in. From there, they started helping out many different charities that were involved with children and life threatening diseases and for the last six years they have been highly involved with charities involved with youth.
“One of the first groups we got involved with for a long-term arrangement was Camp Oochigeas; a summer camp for kids with cancer that we helped out for three years and were able to raise about $100,000 which was donated to them,” said Ron Ellis.
Although he only worked with them for three years, Camp Oochigeas found their own spot in Ellis’ heart.
“Assisting Camp Oochigeas was certainly very touching. I remember my directors and I went up to the camp in Muskoka and we spent the day with the kids and it was just such an eventful day for all of them,” explained the four-time All-Star. “We provided lunch for the kids courtesy of Boston Pizza and they put together a little song for me and painted the number 6 on their backs, it was a very emotional day and that one definitely sticks out to me,” he described.
After working with Camp Oochigeas, Ellis understood how important it was to help the children out. From there he went on to work with the Touchstone Youth Centre, a 32-bed emergency shelter for 16 to 24-year-old homeless and at-risk youth. In addition to providing safe shelter, they address many issues facing homeless youth by offering an employment program, housing help, a drop-in centre and an outreach worker. They have a new three-year program with the Touchstone Youth Centre, assisting them with the funds that are needed to keep the place up and running.
“We feel were making more of an impact there because there is such a need. They have a halfway house in Richmond Hill for the young people who go through their program and are ready to go back into the world. They learn how to cook and take care of things there before they go off to find their own place to live and find a job,” stated the 1967 Stanley Cup champion.
As someone who understands the importance of support in life, Ron Ellis has faced and conquered his own struggles in life that have made him the man he is today. He understands how much these kids need someone to have their backs and someone to show their constant support for the good that they accomplish so they make it a consistent thing.
“When I look at my own life I realize how fortunate I was to have support from parents, friends and even school teachers, and the support was very important in making me a professional athlete,” explicated Ellis. “These kids just need the proper support and direction to give them the opportunity to think about where they can go next in life,” he would add.
Even though his Foundation wasn’t up and running until ten years ago, Ellis has been active throughout the community since his rookie season with the Maple Leafs during the 1964-65 season.
“I remember I took a picture in my first year with a little girl from the Easter Seals campaign who was the Child of the Year and it was put in the Leafs calender that they used to publish,” recounted the member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series. “I was very pleased to have that photo done and put in to the calendar to give them the profile early on in my career,” he concluded.
Ron Ellis battled for the Leafs for 16 seasons while playing in the NHL. He was able to battle depression throughout his lifetime and now he continues to work with various charities in the community to help today’s youth in making a better tomorrow. Him and many other former Leafs that still live in the Toronto area give back whenever they can and are always pleased to get a phone call to help out at charitable events. Although he loves helping out as many charities as possible, Ellis has really enjoyed having his own Foundation because it makes it easier for him to focus on the things that have affected him the most in his lifetime and feels it is important to know where the funds are being sent.
The Ron Ellis Team Canada Foundation has been going for ten strong years. With his name already sewn into the minds of Toronto natives who got to witness him during his stint with the Maple Leafs, his Foundation will now help carry on his name to a next generation who will remember Ron Ellis for what he did off the ice for their community. He helped bring the city of Toronto together throughout his career and he continues to do so even though his hockey career is no more.
To learn more about the Ron Ellis Team Canada Foundation, visit http://www.ronellisfoundation.ca/
To learn more about Camp Oochigeas, visit http://www.ooch.org/
To learn more about the Touchstone Youth Centre, visit http://touchstoneyc.org/