Occupation: Social Services Worker
From: Toronto
Years of Service to GBHS: 3
Hobbies/Interests: Hockey, spending time with his 4 adult children, 2 grandchildren

To Francis McEvenue, hockey has the unique ability to bring people together, to give them a sense of belonging, and even to ignite some of their most positive, early memories from childhood.

Francis is a member of the GBHS Assertive Community Treatment team. He started a weekly hockey program 28 years ago when he was a housing support worker for HopeGreyBruce. Every week, he and his clients would get together with skates, sticks, helmets, and not much else. Now they’re the Puck Pigs, with jerseys and full equipment, and they play every Tuesday afternoon in Owen Sound during hockey season. They even have fans who come out and cheer them, chanting “Let’s go Puck Pigs!”

“It’s just fun, and it brings a smile to everyone’s face,” Francis said. The players, men and women, bring different skills to the rink, but ‘once you’ve got that jersey on, you are part of the team, and there’s a sense of belonging, that you’re part of something. And you’re not just receiving, you’re also giving. And people encourage each other.”

Francis hasn’t seen the hockey program replicated anywhere else. Suffering from mental illness can often lead to isolation, Francis said. But playing hockey each week gets people out, and the players make social connections that they might not otherwise have had. “It is something to look forward to, it’s a light, it’s a source of hope.”

“Our fundamental goal is to play to people’s sense of wellness, not sense of illness. And when you’ve all got the same uniform on, there’s a sense of equality that you don’t find in many other places.”