NEWS
10/05/2018 13:49 EDT | Updated 10/05/2018 13:51 EDT

Ron Reeleder Collects Used Hockey Jerseys To Donate In Developing Countries

He's giving new life to old Canadian jerseys that are otherwise collecting dust.

Ron Reeleder oversees a game of ball hockey in Vietnam.
Ron Reeleder
Ron Reeleder oversees a game of ball hockey in Vietnam.

Thanks to Ron Reeleder, there are Canadian hockey jerseys in some pretty far-flung places around the world.

The Ancaster, Ont. pastry chef has been collecting hockey jerseys that have otherwise been collecting dust in Canadians' basements.

He takes them on his travels around the world, handing them out to kids and teaching them the beloved Canadian pastime of street hockey.

Ron Reeleder
Chilean children play ball hockey in jerseys donated from kind-hearted Canadians

"The kids just light up when they get a jersey. It's just the best feeling," Reeleder told HuffPost Canada.

His mission to hand out second-hand hockey jerseys started in 2010, while on a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for multiple sclerosis.

After the ascent, his group went to visit a local school. All the Canadians were handing out small items, including soccer jerseys, which made him think.

"Why are they handing out soccer jerseys?" Reeleder asked himself. "We're from Canada. We should be handing out hockey jerseys."

From there, Hockey Jerseys for Hope was formed, and on his next trip — to Mt. Everest Base Camp in 2011 — he brought a few hockey jerseys to hand out to the hike's porters.

Ron Reeleder
Mt. Everest porters pose for a photo in the first four jerseys Reeleder handed out.

Since that trip, the project has snowballed into something huge, and so far he's distributed approximately 13,000 jerseys and used hockey equipment in Nepal, China, Peru, Thailand, Laos, Sierra Leon, Chile, Zimbabwe,Vietnam, Mexico, Aruba, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic.

"As Canadians, we have millions of these things just taking up space in our basement. No one knows what to do with them," he said, adding that jerseys are a perfect hand-me-down because they're durable and breathable, not to mention colourful — something all the kids love.

Ron Reeleder
Reeleder poses with a young girl in Peru, who's wearing a hockey jersey donated by Hayley Wickenheiser.

Next week, he'll travel to the Ladakh region in India, and hopes to bring 10 bags of jerseys and equipment, as well as other clothing items.

He's raised about half of the $5,000 he needs to cover the cost of shipping all the items, first by commercial flight and then ground shipping to remote areas.

Reeleder wants to visit the first-ever India women's ice hockey team, and maybe start a game of ball hockey outside the Taj Mahal.

He also hopes to hand out his 14,000 jersey — a pint-size Bobby Orr jersey that was recently donated.

"That's going to be a really special one."

To learn more about Reeleder's project and donate to his travel funds, visit his Facebook page.

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