With Southern Alberta devastated by a crippling flood, the clean-up embodied the true spirit of teamwork and dedication. A recent effort in High River featured two valiant volunteers who share common ground in women’s hockey: Mandi Duhamel and Kristen Lipscombe.
Both have links to three different aspects of women’s hockey. From the outset, both played in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Duhamel was the captain of the University of Ottawa Gee Gees hockey program. Her legendary shot blocking performance when the city hosted the 2008 CIS National Championship endeared her to a city of women’s hockey fans.
Lipscombe donned the famous purple and yellow jersey of the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks. Wearing number 20, the 5’7” honours student patrolled the blue line from 1999 to 2001. Of note, the Golden Hawks program also produced Canada’s National Women’s Program alumnae such as Liz Knox, Cheryl Pounder and Amy Turek.
Although Lipscombe would hang up her skates upon the twilight of her CIS career, at least at the high performance level; she and Duhamel would eventually find their way into the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, albeit in different ways. Duhamel competed with the now-defunct Ottawa Lady Senators, while Lipscombe is currently serving the CWHL as a communications advisor and editorial contributor.
They are also both currently employed by Hockey Canada in Calgary, where the two are making strong contributions behind the scenes. Duhamel is the organization’s manager of female hockey development, while Lipscombe is a communications coordinator and media relations specialist who works alongside Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team, Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team and Canada’s National Women’s Team.
As part of a group of volunteers from Hockey Canada, the two would discover a new meaning to the word teamwork by helping clean up after recent severe flooding in High River, Alberta. South of Calgary, the city was buried in hundreds of thousands of litres of water. A local golf course was completely under water, while many areas of the community were deemed unsafe for several weeks.
Having to enter homes caked in mud, while the paraphernalia and ephemeral items that make up one’s life were washed away and destroyed, Duhamel and Lipscombe gained a new perspective on the importance of life, kindness and helping others. The initiative towards organizing the clean-up was actually spearheaded by a former Hockey Canada employee. Duhamel explains how the humanitarian gesture took shape:
“The former manager of female development, Trina Radcliffe, and her new company Deliver Good, … have been organizing volunteer days for local companies for the past few weeks.”
DeliverGood is a company based in Calgary that builds efficiencies into the charitable giving process by connecting charities and non-profits who need stuff with people and companies who have stuff. For more information, please visit www.DeliverGood.org.
“Just like Hockey Canada, they have organized the employees of various companies in Calgary to gather together and volunteer a full day in High River,” Duhamel said.” It is very honourable, the amount of time and effort the employees of DeliverGood have dedicated to the cause, and the amount of people they have given the opportunity to help out.”
Having relocated to Calgary from Ottawa in the last few months, the flood and its devastating aftermath were of great shock for Duhamel. “Walking through downtown and seeing the bare walls and skeletons of businesses that used to yield the towns core needs was an overwhelming feeling,” she said. “But with mud and dry residue still covering the streets and grounds, what I took most from that day were the people we met.”
While Duhamel and Lipscombe got to meet some of the homeowners whose lives were disrupted; it only increased the importance of the volunteer effort. Working with the daughter of a distraught homeowner gave Duhamel a human face to the toll of the tragic flood.
“I also spent the latter half of the day emptying out the basement of a house filled with two feet of solid mud,” Duhamel said.”The owner had not yet been allowed to return to the home and her daughter was leading the efforts to repair it.”
Watching the tireless volunteer effort supplied both of them with a renewed sense of purpose.
“Those also who have volunteered countless hours since the event have had an incredible effect,” Duhamel noted. “Though the damage and visuals were shocking, it was the people and their endless efforts that stop you from thinking negatively and give you the utmost inspiration to do what you can. I wish everyone in High River the best and can only reiterate my awe of their spirits.”
“We came in with a group of nearly 30 and only made a small dent in what needs to be done, so you can only imagine the effort that the employees have put in each day. It was a privilege to work alongside them,” she said.
Lipscombe, who compassionately gives of her time for other charitable causes, including Oxfam, was very proud of the outcome in helping to improve people’s lives and reduce the disastrous impact that the flood needlessly caused for so many.
“My most rewarding and satisfying work comes from helping others,” she said. “There is a strength of spirit that has shown itself within Calgary and across southern Alberta in the wake of these terrible floods, and I am both happy and proud to contribute whatever I can to keep up this positive momentum.”
Duhamel added, “Regarding helping out, all I can really say is I hope I helped make a difference where I could and I admire those that are working day in and day out to continue to do so.”
Perhaps the greatest impact Duhamel and Lipscombe made in the clean-up effort was providing a sense of hope, while fostering a sense of community and fellowship by helping the victims.
While the aftermath of the damage will result in years of healing and adjustment, this dynamic duo has shown that their heroic efforts go far beyond the rink.
Photos supplied by Kristen Lipscombe