The Cambridge-Isanti Hockey Association coaches participated in the annual coaches game fundraiser this year, benefitting the North Star Family Advocacy Center and Keep a Kid in Hockey Fund. Photo submitted

The Cambridge-Isanti Hockey Association hosted its annual fundraising coaches game on Dec. 18, with proceeds benefiting the North Star Family Advocacy Center and Keep a Kid in Hockey Fund.

“It all started eight years ago with a good excuse to round up our coaches and play hockey. Selfishly we just wanted an excuse to play, and figured who wouldn’t play if the proceeds were going to a good cause? I think we raised just enough to pay for the ice and donate the food to the food shelf the very first year,” said coach Jeremie Reinhart.

“This a game where all of the coaches of all the Cambridge-Isanti Hockey Association teams and coaches of our high school teams come together and play against each other to raise funds for abused children, kids in need and our local food shelf. The kids we are normally coaching get to come out and watch us play. We do a full three-period hockey game, and we also add in a hardest shot competition with a radar gun, a skills shooting competition and shootout competition,” Reinhart added. “We had coaches from all of our Mite teams, Squirt teams, Peewee Teams, Bantam Teams and high school teams. The coaches represented every age category from 4-year-old first-year players to 18-year-old high school players.”

This year, the event raised just over $2,100 and 250 pounds of food for the local food shelf.

The event not only features a fun competitive game between coaches but has transformed into a family fun night for teams and the community, according to board member and player parent, Lisa Lovering.

“It has grown into a family fun night at the arena. Families coming to the event bring a food item to donate as well as pay admission to attend. Each team in the association also donates a basket that will be raffled off,” Lovering said. “There is a hot dog eating contest, chuck a puck and other fun events throughout the night. The 27 coaches playing hockey are all coaches of teams within the association. They also have contests such as ‘fastest puck’ where they test the speed of pucks hit into the net. They have another one where they try to hit a bell, with a puck, hanging in the net.”

Over the years the proceeds have benefited local organizations including Red Liners and Blueliners High School booster clubs, the Refuge, the local food shelf, the Keep a Kid in Hockey Fund, Lil’ Farm and this year, the North Star Family Advocacy Center.

“This year, North Star Family Advocacy Center was chosen as the recipient of funds. The reason it was chosen was that it helps children in our community who have experienced physical or sexual abuse. We have several members in the hockey association who work with abused or at-risk youth. They all felt that this was a worthy cause to support with our fundraiser,” Lovering said.

For Coach Reinhart, the decision of the team to support the advocacy center was one personally meaningful, as the executive director of the center.

“This year North Star Family Advocacy Center was chosen, and it sounds like it will be an ongoing collaborative effort. The coolest part is the proceeds go to a local nonprofit that directly serves the very same community that supports the event. North Star Family Advocacy Center provides much needed services to physically and sexually abused children in the East Central Region and beyond. We even worked collaboratively with the FBI in two recent cases. It’s really not difficult to get behind a cause/organization that serves abused children as it really meshes well with what we are trying to accomplish with the annual Coaches Game,” Reinhart said.

According to the North Star Family Advocacy Center and National Children’s Advocacy Center, 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused before turning 18; 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited while online; 90% of child sex abuse victims know their abuser; and 30% are abused by a family member, so being able to support the effort to serve families at a local level is important.

“We have seen 44 cases in the last 12 months just from Isanti County alone. We are a one-stop shop for families affected by child abuse. We offer professional forensic interviews where the child is interviewed by a professional trained in trauma-informed interview protocols, we provide professional forensic medical exams in conjunction with Dr. Mark Hudson, who is a renowned expert on pediatric child abuse; we provide professional child and family advocacy services that see the case from beginning to end. Our advocates provide direct client service to our victims. We also partner with Therapeutic Services Agency to provide ongoing trauma informed mental health services. We do it all under one roof, and we provide all of the same services for vulnerable adults in our community as well,” Reinhart said.

Lovering, one of the initial visionaries for the advocacy center in 2012, explained the need for such a versatile center for the area.

“In approximately 2012 during meetings with neighboring counties, it was found that there were victims of sexual assault who needed forensic medical exams. They all had to be sent down to Minneapolis or St. Paul. Many of these families had transportation issues, did not drive in the cities or just scheduling and could not get to these appointments. That meant that forensic evidence was lost. Working with neighboring counties as well as other departments in Isanti County, they worked to bring a place to East Central Minnesota,” Lovering said.

The biggest hurdle, according to Lovering, was money.

“That was where Rep. Brian Johnson came in. He, along with the Minnesota Children’s Alliance, drafted a bill to provide funding to establish children’s advocacy centers statewide. There was only seven in the whole state at that time,” Lovering said.

The Minnesota Legislature passed the bill, which allowed for Lovering to apply for a $60,000 grant, which the center was later awarded.

According to Lovering, the chief deputy for the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, who’d seen her fair share of family struggles within the system, the center has made a substantial difference for families needing the services provided.

“A child that comes to North Star Advocacy Center is able to meet with law enforcement and child protection, as well as obtain a forensic medical exam if needed; mental health and crime victim services are also provided,” Lovering said. “The goal of bringing this service here was that the child had a ‘one-stop shop.’ They weren’t being sent all over the place to different people. It is a very confusing time for a child who has suffered abuse, and we want to make this process as comfortable and child friendly as possible. And that is what advocacy centers do.”

The center is now funded by grants and community support, according to Reinhart.

“We are very small nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is 100% dependent on state grants and donations. Our entire budget was under $200,000 last year. That includes everything from garbage bills to building expenses and salaries. We welcome community donations and celebrate those who do. We embrace a champion for kids mentality. Many of our donors choose to remain anonymous, and we respect that as well. It’s a difficult topic for many people,” Reinhart added.

The North Star Family Advocacy Center is located at 112 Fifth St. NW in Braham. For more information, call 763-252-6120.

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