By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
More than a pond hockey tournament and fundraiser, Julia’s Hope Cup is also a love story.
We know about the Turner family, their loss of 15-year-old daughter Julia in December, 2011 to brain cancer and the community’s great outpouring of love in their support.
We know about the Turners’ love of Welland, manifested in layers and layers of community involvement and interaction.
But another love story not so well known comes into play: friendship. It’s about friendship and how its bonds have grown stronger over the passage of time.
I was in Eddie Burkholder’s Fitch Street office a few days ago to chat with him and Jim Larouche (who was a tad late in arriving), about their involvement in Julia’s Hope Cup. Paul Turner, Julia’s dad was there and on his way out to do some errands for the event, said to Burkholder, “I love you, buddy.” Burkholder reciprocated.
This relationship is decades old. Burkholder skated through years gone by with an animated retelling of how it began. The three families lived in the Chippawa Park neighbourhood – the Turners on Edgar Street, the Burkholders on Glen View and the Larouches on Pine Street. The boys attended St. Kevin Catholic elementary school, Eddie a few grades behind the others, who were older. They shared a passion for sports. Some days, they (with siblings and other friends) held Olympics-like competitions engaging in four or five seasonal sports. In winter, their favourite meeting place was the park because of its frozen pond. If I can be allowed to paraphrase a saying: ‘There is no greater waste than an unused sheet of pond ice.’
“We’d go out early in the morning and come home after dinner,” Burkholder recalled. “It just had to be frozen, that’s all that mattered. It didn’t matter how much snow there was on it, we brought our shovels. Back then you went to the park because you always found a game to get into. I know it sounds like Norman Rockwell, but every time we got back home from the park, mom would have hot cocoa on the stove.” It was a ritual at all three homes.
Their “extra-strong bond” held firm over the years because of a combination of trust, their on-going enjoyment of special times and the lessons that reality taught them.
Said Burkholder: “One of the things about our friendship is that we’ve been there for each other not just in good times but bad times. That’s what love is about. Let me tie Jimmy into that.
“I lost my dad in 1989, he died of cancer at 59, I was 21. I was diagnosed at 26 with testicular cancer. After chemotherapy and other treatment I’m 24-years cancer free. My point is Jimmy was there every day for me. He drove me to cancer treatment almost every day. When both my parents died (Burkholder’s mother, Ellen, passed in 2004) both times he was the first guy at my house.”
They shared in each other’s joys, they shared in each other’s tears. That’s what friends are for. That’s what love is.
“When you see someone you love like Paul and Tina go through pain, it hurts,” Burkholder said, tearing up behind his desk as he fast-forwarded the story. “As a friend you want to take their pain away.”
Burkholder has been involved in the hockey tournament from its inception. Here’s something I didn’t know: It started in his office with some casual conversation amongst the friends:
“We said let’s do what we did when we were kids – let’s throw our sticks into the middle of the rink, it didn’t matter who was on your team. We said let’s throw in $50 or $100 or whatever, and we’ll give back to the community.”
That’s what led to the Hope Cup, a hockey fundraiser for Hope Centre. Then after Julia passed, it was re-dedicated in 2012 as Julia’s Hope Cup in her memory.
Jimmy Larouche joined in with: “Building on what Eddie said, the Burkholder, Turner, Larouche families were inseparable. Our bond is unbreakable. It’s the foundation our parents built for us and to pass the message on.”
Burkholder added: “We were fortunate to come from very good families. At the end of the day, it’s love that has been the foundation of our friendship.”
They knew Julia, of course, from their family friendships. They spoke of her glowingly: sweet, wonderful, inspirational, full of spirit, athletic, committed to giving back to the community, and more.
“She loved helping young kids with their homework,” Burkholder recalled. “She was my daughter Emily’s reading buddy. My daughter adored her.”
They’re not surprised Julia’s Hope Cup day has the backing it does. Welland and Wellanders are known for turning out to support good causes that benefit others, Larouche said, and this is one that qualifies.
“The three of us share the belief that it’s our duty to give back to the community,” he said. “We all share that commitment. What’s ironic is that we go back to a frozen pond playing when we were kids, and here we are again, all these years later, back in the park, back on the pond, still having fun and doing it for a good cause. You gotta love that.”
The ninth annual Julia’s Hope Cup takes place Saturday, February 15. For information about the event, visit http://www.juliashopecup.ca