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A hockey tournament with a big goal

Left to right, Jon Schwartz, Jesse Abrams and Zack Belzberg hope to raise $150,000 with this year’s tournament, organized in memory of Mr. Schwartz’s brother, Joel.

CHRIS YOUNG/The Globe and Mail

The donors: Jon Schwartz, Zack Belzberg and Jesse Abrams

The gift: Raising more than $400,000

The cause: The Reena Foundation

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The reason: To fund services for people with developmental disabilities

Almost every time Jon Schwartz played hockey, his older brother, Joel, would be in the stands cheering him on.

Joel had a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome but that didn't slow him down. He played sports, finished school, held a job and looked out for his little brother, especially at hockey games, where Joel was an avid fan. Tragically, Joel died on March 3, 2009, after an accident. He was 25 years old.

That summer, Mr. Schwartz and two close friends, Zack Belzberg and Jesse Abrams, were riding the subway in Toronto when they started talking about doing something in memory of Joel. They quickly hit on the idea of a hockey-related event and started planning the Joel Schwartz Memorial Hockey Tournament. They held the first tournament in March, 2010, figuring they'd get a handful of teams and raise $10,000. Instead they attracted a dozen teams and pulled in $110,000.

The annual event has grown ever since and so far they have raised about $400,000. This year's tournament is on March 9 at Toronto's Chesswood Arena and it will include 24 men's and women's teams, with a target of raising $150,000. Proceeds fund programs at the Reena Foundation, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities.

For Mr. Schwartz, 26, the tournament has transformed a tragedy into something positive. "We turned this into a good thing, especially at a time of the year when the memories start coming back," said Mr. Schwartz, who works at a Toronto investment firm called Foundation Markets.

His mother, Julie Schwartz, put it best. March used to be a difficult month, she told the three men. "Now, it's a happy time for us."

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pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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