Little did Todd Churchill know when he had an idea for a small backyard skating rink last summer with ad slots for his favourite charities just how big a success it would eventually become.
Todd and his wife Kimberly, the proud parents of two boys, live in Portugal Cove-St. Philip, just outside of St, John’s, Newfoundland. Their younger son, 23-month-old Carter, has battled health issues since birth, and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and acute hearing impairment.
Following the diagnosis, Todd and his wife became involved with fundraising for local organizations, including Easter Seals NL, Rainbow Riders and the Mazol Shriners — the charities whose support and resources have become invaluable to the family. He tells NTV’s Pam Parsons they also focused on Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
As Churchill explained to CBC News, their family wanted to feel like they were making some impact.
"As any parent will tell you, It's a very helpless feeling," he said. "You want to do something and this is what my wife and I have decided to do, to throw ourselves into charities associated with his conditions."
And then, it got personal. Todd had previously built a smaller skating rink for recreational purposes, and he thought it was time to make the dream a little larger, complete with advertising space with all revenue heading to the charities. Kimberly also got on board with Carter's Cupcakes, a baked goods company that donates 25 per cent of all proceeds to local children's charities.
With so many people requesting funds for charity, Todd not only wanted to “get donations but also give the company some enticement in terms of advertising.”
Todd designed and built the 95’ x 46’ outdoor ice hockey rink last fall on his 1-1/4 acre lot for use this winter. What started as $200 donations for ads on a board quickly turned into a request for spots for in-ice logos. The Churchills' initial goal of $8,000 has already been surpassed, and to date, they have raised nearly $26,000.
SEE: Images of the Churchills' amazing backyard rink. Story continues below:
Building and maintaining a backyard rink is hard work, but it's a labour of love for Churchill, who admits to knowing little about the charities before Carter’s connection.
“I viewed it as a way to do fundraising in a unique kind of way,” he explained to The Huffington Post Canada.
On Saturday, Jan 19, Churchill held his grand opening, featuring the Muckers Winter Classic, hosted by HMP, playing against The Media All Stars.
Churchill told The Huffington Post that response has been overwhelming. "There have been so many requests that it will be booked for the next 10 years easily,” Churchill said.
And as for Carter's progress, the toddler is making great improvements in his therapy sessions at the local children's hospital in St. John's.
“Every day he surprises us a little,” Churchill said, “Every day he's showing little glimpses of moving in the right direction which is promising for us.”
Although the family look forward to some much-deserved rest in the spring, Carter’s success encourages his parents to continue their focus on fundraising for the remainder of the year.