Shane O’Brien was never a paperboy and it shows.
Manning the corner of Burrard and Pender early Wednesday morning, O’Brien was donning his familiar #55 Canucks sweater handing out Vancouver Sun newspapers as part of Raise-A-Reader Day.
For a small donation passersby could support Raise-A-Reader Day, a campaign created by the Vancouver Sun in 1997 to increase awareness and raise money to fund children’s literacy programs in British Columbia, get a paper and even a picture and autograph with O’Brien.
“I don’t think I’m leading the way with newspapers sold, but it’s obviously for a great cause and there’s been a lot of support,” said O’Brien, who’s not scheduled to play against the San Jose Sharks tonight.
“People were out early, obviously some going to work, and others just coming out to do something to help the community. It’s the least we can do and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
In total 350 volunteers, including members of the Vancouver Sun, Global Television, the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Fire Fighters and other major Raise-A-Reader beneficiaries, were on hand to flood downtown Vancouver with papers available at 35 street corners.
In 2008, $924,925 was raised for literacy in BC. Over 130 recipients put the funds to good use and a major step was taken towards spreading the importance of reading with 114 elementary and community libraries getting a share of the funds.
With 27 cities across Canada participating in Raise-A-Reader Day this year, the impact the initiative has across the country is beyond what the Vancouver Sun ever envisioned.
“Basically the money go towards helping fund young kids to get reading material so they can learn how to read and whatever we collect today the government matches dollar for dollar,” explained Tony Guarascio, retail manager for the Vancouver Sun.
“It’s a great cause and we get a lot of support, the Vancouver Canucks are obviously very heavily involved and they help create a lot for the awareness. People come by and get really excited and not just about the current Canucks, but even the guys who played in the 1980s. There are still a lot of people out here getting autographs from them as well. The Canucks help get people out here so it’s great, it raises the awareness level.”
Although Wellwood, stationed at the corner of Granville and West Georgia, is an avid reader now (so much so that he didn’t own a TV when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, opting instead to turn pages whenever he got the chance), he wasn’t always a bookworm.
“I read some hockey books growing up, but I wasn’t much of a reader until I got older and then I really grew into it,” said Wellwood, who read Le Chandail de Hockey (The Hockey Sweater) more times growing up than he’d like to admit.
“Reading should be a leisure activity, not just for learning. It’s something that you grow to love and growing up I played mostly sports instead of being a book guy, but anybody can change and it’s definitely something to get into.”
O’Brien wasn’t a read for pleasure type of kid either.
“My mom and dad made me read,” he laughed.
“Just growing up I read a lot of hockey books and stuff like that, but it’s important to help out and show kids that it’s important to read. If you can make that little change in their life, then that’s what it’s all about.”