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Ex-Canuck and World Series champ headline Kelowna slow-pitch tourney

The Heart of a Warrior tournament is meant to raise awareness for mental health and advocacy
(Photo - Jordy Cunningham/Kelowna Capital News)

Despite the elements, the Kenny Elliott Heart of a Warrior slow-pitch tournament still played on Saturday to raise awareness for mental health and abuse.

In the fourth year of the event, the tournament featured 24 games and two retired athletes as celebrity guests, in former Vancouver Canucks goaltender and current team ambassador Kirk McLean and World Series Champion Matt Stairs. It was both their first time taking part in the weekend.

While Stairs took a few at-bats throughout the day, McLean just coached, but both are scheduled to take part in the home run derby on Saturday night.

But on top of taking part on the field, the cause off the field is what everyone is at the event to support.

“We all know people either closely or in-directly that struggle with mental health and we have to keep the awareness out there and make sure everybody’s informed properly,” said McLean.

McLean played 16 seasons in the NHL, 11 of them with the Canucks.

“I get a chance to come out on my own and support a great cause and a cause that’s close to me,” said McLean. “I’ve had teammates that have struggled with it and in our hockey community its well-known, and we’ve lost some players that played in Vancouver and around the league. It’s important to get the message out.”

Stairs, who played 19 years in MLB, knows how important the purpose behind the tournament is.

“It’s a great cause and it’s important,” said Stairs. “To be a part of this was an honour. For me it’s more a learning experience as well, it’s something not a lot of people don’t pay attention to, especially with the pandemic the last two years.”

In the first year of the tournament, there was only six teams participating. Now there’s 24 and the event just keeps growing every year.

Elliott, the namesake of the tourney, played high level softball, and was good friends with Andy Bhatti and was his mentor. That’s one of the many reasons why Bhatti hosts this tournament every year.

“My goal is to advocate to help people raise awareness for trauma, letting you know you’re never alone,” said Bhatti.

Bhatti told Capital News that on top of finding resources, people have to find the proper resources for help and that there is a difference between treatment centres and education prevention programs.

There are no licensed proper treatment centres in Kelowna.

“There’s thousands of people here that are addicted to drugs or have mental health problems or sexual abuse problems or trauma but they’re not getting the proper resources,” said Bhatti.

On top of becoming more aware of mental health and abuse over this weekend, the winning team of the tournament gets to take home a cash prize.

The tournament is taking place at Mission Recreation Park behind H2O.

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Jordy Cunningham

About the Author: Jordy Cunningham

Hailing from Ladner, B.C., I have been passionate about sports, especially baseball, since I was young. In 2018, I graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree
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