By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: Members of the 2017 Spartans and Fighting Gophers gather with WHSFL commissioner Rick Henkewich (middle, left) to present a cheque to the Never Alone Foundation. Photo by Ligia Braidotti
This Thursday at 7 p.m., the Sisler Spartans and Garden City Fighting Gophers will do battle in the fourth annual Never Alone Foundation game/McPhillips Bowl at Charlie Krupp Stadium, the home of the North Winnipeg Nomads.
About the Never Alone Foundation
The Never Alone Foundation was conceived by former Bombers President and CEO Lyle Bauer in 2004, after being diagnosed with throat cancer. He said that he had never felt so alone and unsure of what the future would hold.
His experience successfully fighting the disease and the support he received from friends, family, and cancer service providers inspired him to help other cancer patients, and to let them know that they are Never Alone.
Over the years, the Never Alone Foundation has provided funding to numerous agencies and programs working to defeat cancer, while also supporting initiatives that provide assistance to the families of cancer patients, both before and after diagnosis.
How the game came about
Over the years, Bauer had done a lot for high school and amateur football in the province. In conversations that WHSFL commissioner Rick Henkewich had had with him, it just made sense to work together to come up with some sort of game involving Never Alone, with all proceeds being donated to the foundation.
“We just decided this was a great way to raise funds and to give back to the people who were working for us,” Henkewich says.
“We also wanted our guys to understand that they’re on the lucky side of life, and there’s another dimension to where we are. We’re blessed with athletic ability and everything else, whereas others are suffering and are inflicted with cancer.”
During the process, the North Winnipeg Nomads football club stepped up, volunteering to supply their field every year for the game. What that guaranteed was a game under the lights due to the amenities located at Charlie Krupp Stadium.
All the league needed now was a rivalry game attached to it to hype up the contest. That was made possible when Garden City moved up to division 1 in 2015.
“Sisler and Garden City, now that they’re both division 1 schools, it just made sense to have the McPhillips Bowl,” Henkewich says.
“Most of these guys played their minor ball with the Nomads, so they’re playing against their friends and the game is always critical in the standings. It’s also a way to give back to the community and help out a different level of people.”
Over the past three years, just shy of $10,000 has been raised for the Never Alone Foundation, primarily coming from the $5 gate charge as well as the canteen proceeds collected at the game.
“For two high school teams out of Winnipeg’s north end, that’s a great deal of money,” Henkewich says.
“And it’s not just the teams, it’s their student populations and fan support that step up to this too. It’s a
About that rivalry….
The Sisler Spartans currently hold a 2-1 record since the game’s inception, and will enter this year’s McPhillips Bowl as the defending champs. The game has traditionally been tightly contested, with the first two editions being won by a combined total of just 20 points.
Even MLA’s in the city have started to get embrace the game’s rivalry.
“The MLA’s for the area, they’ve had a bet for the last couple of years. The losing team has to
wear the other team’s jersey in the house. So that’s always a great thing,” Henkewich says.
Last year, Sisler won so Nic Curry had to wear a Sisler jersey in the house. The fact that the politicians have jumped on this too is absolutely fantastic. It really shows the community support.”