Saturday will mark the 9th annual 'Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism' event with five high school hockey games at Wings West in Kalamazoo.
"We were not super confident that the event was even going to be able to happen," Stephanie Dukesherer, KOHA Director of Marketing and Communications, said about high school contact sports being on pause. "So we sort of put it on hold."
But a week ago, high school contact sports were given the green light and it was time to get to work to make the event happen.
"We were already prepared to do a good portion of it virtually anyway," Dukesherer added. "But we have still been pretty harried the last week."
They raise money for the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research, one of very few organizations like it in the Midwest.
"The funds raised to go help directly, families that are receiving services that are dealing with an autism diagnosis that are receiving services from the Great Lakes Center," Dukesherer said.
The event has grown consistently since is began and last year they donated $18,000.
Despite the challenges presented this year, organizers are not willing to say they won't be able to continue to grow the event.
"The excitement of this being the first full weekend of high school hockey being back in Kalamazoo is very exciting for us," Jessica Wressel, Hockey Fights for Autism Committee Member, said. "I think having the virtual auction will allow us to have that outreach go much farther that the room that we have used the last couple of years so we can get in front of a lot more people. While we may not have as many donations, I think we will get more exposure."
"I think once you are part of a hockey family and you are part of something like this, you are never really not part of it," Dukesherer added. "People are plugged in and passionate about helping the community and that is one of the most amazing things about hockey. I'm a little biased but it is true, this event it pulls on your heart strings and it doesn't let go."
The silent auction and donation buckets will be virtual and those wishing to donate should go to Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association website for more information.
Saturday's games schedule:
11:15am - Mattawan vs. Okemos
1:30pm - Kalamazoo United vs. Capital City Capitals
3:45 pm - Kalamazoo Eagles vs. Eastside Stars
6:15pm - Portage Muskies vs. Lumen Christi
8:30pm - Mattawan vs. Mid Michigan Marauders