A charity poker challenge brought out celebrities and a packed house for the Men of Hope’s fundraiser on Saturday evening at Aldergrove Legion.
A final tally on funds raised was not available at press time but it should be considerable. Event co-organizers Andy Bhatti and Lee Ferrill were stoked with enthusiasm and gratitude for the countless contributions that night.
The Men of Hope, founded in 2010, is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising public awareness through public speaking, community charity events, advocacy and education surrounding childhood victimization (see website: www.menofhope.ca).
Twenty-nine year old Ferrill, the founder of the Men of Hope, is a motivational speaker, facilitator and therapist. As a survivor of childhood victimization, Lee continues to be a strong advocate for survivors of childhood victimization.
“This is not an issue of gender. This is an issue of humanity. While statistics indicate that one in five boys and one in three girls are sexually victimized before the age of 16 in Canada, in my opinion one in three children are victims of sexual violence. Child predators are not gender specific, however, they are specific to the vulnerability of children,” said Ferrill.
“It’s extremely difficult to talk about it but it’s necessary. If it’s not talked about that gives pedophiles power because they prey on silence,” said Ferrill.
Ferrill expressed thanks for the “phenomenal support” by countless donors as well as the celebrities who turned up for the event. Major donors included Aldergrove Legion for providing the hall free of charge, Pastime Sports & Games and We Do Recover Towing.
A number of star athletes and actors were there to sign autographs and play poker, including Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Johnny Bower, Gino Odjick, Steve Passmore, John Craighead, Marco Iannuzzi and Graham Wardle.
Andrew Bhatti is Men of Hope’s event co-ordinator. As a survivor of childhood victimization himself, Andrew was inspired by Men of Hope a couple of years ago and joined them in the effort to raise awareness for both male and female survivors.
“I am lucky to be alive,” Bhatti told the crowd, as he described being molested from age nine to 14, using heroin from age 14, spending eight years in jail and overdosing 12 times.
“I’ve been clean since I was 26. When I said ‘where do I go to get help?’ I met Lee (Ferrill). I learned that getting high to block the pain does not work.”
Funds and donations from Saturday’s event go to B.C. Society for Survivors of Male Sexual Abuse, a non-profit society established to provide therapeutic services for males who have been sexually abused at some time in their lives (see website: http://bc-malesurvivors.com).
Men of Hope Charity Poker Challenge organizer Andy Bhatti (left) and Men of Hope founder Lee Ferrill brought the crowd to a standing ovation at the Aldergrove Legion hall, Saturday evening.