Langley resident Andy Bhatti is lacing up his skates and joining Canucks favourites like Kirk McLean and Greg Adams in Hockey Helps the Homeless Tournament in Vancouver to help raise money for homeless shelters for youth and adults on Nov. 28.
Bhatti, an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse has raised around $40,000 for his cause over the past couple years doing poker tournaments and cycling 700 km in B.C. last summer.
But helping the homeless is important to him too, because he lived on the streets of Aldergrove and the Downtown Eastside as a teenager and knows all too well the difference shelters can make.
“No one grows up wanting to be homeless,” said Bhatti.
Many of the male homeless population in Vancouver are made up of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bhatti lived in and out of addiction to heroin for 12 years, hiding his pain of being abused.
“When I was a kid I dreamed of being a hockey player,” said Bhatti.
“The people that worked at the shelter were so nice and caring and didn’t judge me,” said Bhatti. “Three years later I changed my life. I’m now eight years clean off drugs but I will never forget the people in the homeless shelter for calling the ambulance that day and help ing to save my life.”
Bhatti will be joined on the ice with Canuck favourites Kirk McLean, Dave Babych, Jyrki Lumme, Geoff Courtnall and Alex Auld, among many others, when they play at UBC.
Last year’s tournament raised more than $346,000 in gross revenue.
Among those shelters supported are the Covenant House for youth and Rain City Housing.
A full-blown heroin addict by the age of 14, Bhatti was self medicating his pain after being sexually abused by his Big Brother, starting at the age of nine until 13.
His abuser, who volunteered as a Big Brother through Langley Big Brothers and Sisters at the time, was convicted of sexually abusing two boys in Kamloops.
Bhatti is creating his own charity for victims of childhood sexual abuse Called Survivors Supporting Survivors.
“Our goal is to carry the message to any survivor that there is hope and we can recover from any form of abuse, addiction or sexual abuse.”
To sponsor him for the hockey tournament online, go to hockeyhelpshomeless.com and go to Andy Bhatti sponsor page. If you would like to write a cheque to Hockey Helps the Homeless, he can be reached at 778-829-4357. He has already raised $700 for the cause.