Indigenous man determined to raise money for grandson’s hockey tuition

Sebastian Benuen displayed tremendous determination in showing that he would do anything to make sure that his 14- year-old grandson, Aries Benuen, was able to continue playing hockey at the Canadian International Hockey Academy.

Showing tremendous character both grandfather and grandson began on August 29 what would end up being a nine day 330-kilometre fundraising trek from Churchill Falls to Sheshatshiu, with the prime objective of raising tuition money so that Aries can return to the Canadian International Hockey Academy, which charges $41,900 tuition for a full- time student.

“I want to thank my grandfather and grandma for doing the fundraiser and the walk with me,” Aries, who is from Sheshatshiu Inn First Nation said. “I grew up to hockey. My whole family plays hockey and like most of the reserve play hockey. It’s the most popular sport on the reserve.”

Originally, the prime objective was to raise $50,000; following various donations, including Go Fund Me, corporate sponsors and 50/50 sales in Nunavut, that objective was easily surpassed as they ended up raising a little over $74,000.

“I was surprised when I saw the amount of money that was raised. I just wanted to reach my goal,” Sebastian Benuen said. “And it was so emotional when my sister was telling me that this is how much we made and I couldn’t even describe how I felt because I was almost crying at the time.”

Aries’ grandparents have been true heroes ever since taking him in as a baby, and making sure growing up, that he was able to maximize his potential in playing the sport he loves in hockey.

Years ago, the grandparents sacrificed by picking up and moving close by to Happy Valley-Goose Bay where Aries got an opportunity to play and compete against stiffer hockey competition.

“I told my grandson Aries, I will be there for you no matter what,” Sebastian Benuen said. “After six years-old, Aries started hockey and I have been supporting him ever since.”

Later on, they once again re-located only this time in Quebec, where this up and coming hockey player competed and excelled in AAA hockey. A couple of years later, he was off to Ontario, where he was accepted to The Canadian International Hockey Academy school.

This rapidly improving hockey player, whose ultimate goal is to make the NHL, has excelled over the years in various hockey tournaments played in both Quebec and Ontario.

Unfortunately, with the CCVID-19 pandemic, last year’s season was cut short and Aries came back home last March to Labrador when the Canadian International Hockey Academy was closed.

“He keeps asking me when he’s going back to school and we don’t have it,” the grandfather said. “It’s a lot of money. The way this pandemic turned this world upside down and impacted me financially, that’s the reason why I’m doing this.”

Each day of walking, the plan was to cover 50-60 km a day, and they were often joined by many strong supporters including many former teammates of Aries and a girls’ hockey team from Sheshatshiu, who supported them on the final quarter or so of the walk, back home.

Playing a big part in getting this fundraiser organized was the grandfather’s sister, Germaine Benuene.

“He has done a lot,” Germaine Benuene said about the grandfather. “A lot of people are supporting him for this. People are stopping me and donating for them.”

This coming 2020/2021 academic year, Aries was named as one of the 15 to play for Canada at the World Cup International Tournament Europe U15 2021.

Aries Benuen has been described as a role model to the Innu youth and for the community on a whole.

Training at the Canadian International Hockey Academy gives Benuen a big advantage when it comes to chasing that dream of one day playing in the NHL.

The true heroes are not only the grandparents but also the caring people of Sheshatshiu and those people from outside the community who have come together and helped support the cause of raising money so that Aries can continue to attend the Canadian International Hockey Academy and maximize his talents of playing hockey.

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