PORT HAWKESBURY: It was a trip like none other for a Port Hawkesbury local who’s been following the Habs since he was a lad.
“Oh my God, it was fantastic,” said Reginald Keefe, a 77-year-old who visited the Bell Centre on November 22 to see the Montreal Canadiens challenge the Ottawa Senators.
Keefe was able to attend the game due to Wish of a Lifetime Canada.
Wish of a Lifetime Canada’s mission is to fulfill seniors’ dreams and share their stories to inspire those of all ages. Wish of a Lifetime was founded in 2008 in the United States, and Wish of a Lifetime Canada launched just last year.
Keefe’s Wish was fulfilled thanks to a partnership between Wish of a Lifetime Canada and Chartwell Retirement Residences. The partnership builds on the commitment of each organization to make people’s lives better by empowering seniors to keep dreaming, daring, and living a life of purpose.
“My friend made the wish of a lifetime for me, and a couple of months ago they called me, telling me I won the trip,” explained Keefe. “She did all the paperwork for this, and she came up with me. There was a lot of stuff to be done, and she handled it for me.”
The friend in question is Deborah MacNeil, who lives close to Keefe. She said she was very happy to see her neighbour visit Montreal to see his all-time favourite hockey club.
Keefe saw the Canadiens in action once before, when the team visited Halifax for a game. Last month’s trip proved to be a far more engaging experience, however, as he got the star’s treatment. The trip also included his first time on a plane, which he said he didn’t mind a bit.
“It was just like sitting home in the recliner,” he said, adding that the folks in Montreal made him feel very welcome.
“The people were so friendly,” he said. “We were walking around, and people seemed really nice. In a strange place, you’d be kind of nervous but they didn’t bother us a bit.
“There was a reception for us, and we went all around the town. There’s a cathedral right next to the forum, and we toured that. I got so many pictures. My friend Deborah gave me an album, and they sent me down a bunch of pictures too.
“It was a thrill of a lifetime.”
Keefe is no newcomer when it comes to cheering on the Canadiens. He said he can remember being a kid in the 1950s listening to Habs games on the radio. He also has the Canadiens’ logo tattooed on his arm.
Prior to the game, he was able to spend time in the Canadiens Alumni lounge – rubbing elbows with former team member Rejean Houle. He also was able to watch the guys limbering up before taking to the ice.
“[My favorite part was] just to see the team skate,” Keefe said. “It’s so much different than watching it on television.
“When I got back, it took a couple of days to wear off. I keep looking at the pictures over and over again. I never thought I’d see the day where I could go.”
Sally Webster, the Director of Community Outreach for Wish of a Lifetime Canada, said she and the folks with her group were happy to play a role in helping Keefe catch the game.
“Our organization’s mission has its roots in that of Wish of a Lifetime US, which was founded in 2008 and has granted over 1,400 Wishes for seniors in the United States,” she said. “Chartwell Retirement Residences became the founding corporate sponsor of Wish of a Lifetime Canada, bringing wishes to Canadian seniors like Reginald.
“Reg’s giving personality and involvement in his community is commendable, and we were so glad we could help him live out his dream of seeing the Canadiens play once more.”
Keefe might not be visiting the Bell Centre in the near future, but he’ll be keeping up with his squad from his living room.
“I’ll be watching them on TV,” he said. “I don’t miss a game.”