The Essence of 

Graham McWaters

Passionate ~ Motivator ~ Energy

Creative ~ Humorous ~ Entertainer

Thanks again to my great friend Dan Bodanis, who was responsible for the invitation to the  Alumni Luncheon in December 2023, where I met Graham for the first time.  We have met several times since then.  

I knew he was a good sport, and we would get along when he posed for one of my fun shots with two of his friends.  Later that luncheon, I discovered he does a lot of work with indigenous children and communities, a heart’s core thing for me.  

We agreed to meet for lunch to get to know each other.  It’s amazing how we connected. He has this infectious, positive attitude that works like a magnet. He works hard at pursuing every opportunity to support the indigenous hockey equipment drive.  See the website at:

https://www.theiropportunity.com/indigenoushockeyequipmentdrive

I have since met Graham more times, and I marvel at his energy level each time.  Before long, he recruited me to photograph one of the hockey drives in Burlington. The Burlington Eagles U13A Blue Eagles came through big time with donations of 25 bags of hockey equipment. Way to go, team.

At the donation venue, I met several dedicated people, including Graham’s wife Angie, who were also infected by this kind, motivated soul!

There will be other events and more stories to tell…

1) At some time, you reached a fork in the road.  At that time, it didn’t feel like it, but looking back, you realize that was a big moment.  One that changed your life.  Describe yours.

My life changed when I was walking out of a hockey rink in November 2014 in Midland, Ontario, with my son Ryan while he was playing in a Silver Stick Tournament for Richmond Hill. I saw young players going in and out of the rink with garbage bags as their hockey bags. I then saw an adult fixing screws on a helmet that didn’t have a mask/cage. I didn’t think this was right as I have been fortunate to have good protective wear, adequate equipment, and proper hockey bags for myself as a young player in Montreal and my two sons, who played minor hockey in Richmond Hill.

I asked the adult fixing the helmet if his players could use better hockey equipment, and he referred me to his girlfriend, Rosemarie McKenzie. She told me all the young players were from her Indigenous community, Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island. We exchanged contact numbers, which was the beginning of something I never dreamed of. 

My son’s team and a few parents with children on other teams gathered eight bags of hockey equipment and around 25 sticks. I called Rosemarie to set a drop-off time, and she asked me to come to the Native Friendship Centre in Barrie. Ryan and I were so excited, but we didn’t expect what we saw when we arrived. Rosemarie had arranged for numerous families and their children to be at the Native Centre, and as soon as we walked in with the equipment, we were approached by a CTV News crew. Ryan and I were overwhelmed with joy; that was the first time I shed a tear of joy on many occasions.

 Rosemarie and her friends from Beausoleil spread out the hockey equipment on tables, and that’s when the fun began….the children started trying on the gear and filing their hockey bags, not plastic bags. 

 This began a 9-year journey in 2014, where we now collect around 1,000 bags per year for 25 to 30 Indigenous communities in Canada. What started as one community in Ontario grew to numerous in Ontario, and now we have joined a sports charity and expanded across Canada to remote northern Indigenous communities. The fork in my road has turned into a complete set of cutlery.

2) What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

I have had numerous minor challenges in life, but none of them were that significant. The one that was significant to me was regarding my health. I have a family history of heart disease. In 2015, my beautiful wife, Angie, suggested we do a weight loss program together. We started on a lifestyle change utilizing the 17-Day Diet by Mike Moreno, MD. Over the next 6 months, I lost 50 pounds by eating great foods. I was able to keep the weight off. You are what you eat! I picked up so many great eating habits that I still maintain today.

4) What one gem that you learn on your journey that you would love to share?

Giving back to others is one of the most important things I have learned through my journey. There is nothing better than seeing someone smile, get excited, laugh and jump for joy when you do something that helps them or their family. I didn’t pick the path I walked…I saw something that made me drive down the road to help others. The randomness of me walking in and out of a rink in 2014 changed my life so I could help young indigenous youth play a sport that they might not have played. I have heard form elders and parents in the communities we assist that our hockey equipment donations have reduced the suicide rate in their communities.

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