Olympic gold medalist Jill Saulnier to host annual charity golf classic this August
Thirty-two teams will hit some balls to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House
Long before hockey pro Jill Saulnier became an Olympic gold medalist, she was gifted a pair of golf shoes by her mom. She was 12. “They didn’t even fit me,” Saulnier laughs. “They were way too big.” But her mom knew she would need a pair at some point for golf tournament fundraisers. What she didn’t know back then was that Saulnier would go on to host her own charity golf tournament after winning two Olympic medals.
This year, the Jill Saulnier Foundation is putting on the second annual Hearts of Gold charity golf classic at Glen Arbor Golf Course on August 9. And, while Saulnier is a whiz with a hockey stick, golfing isn’t exactly second nature. “I’m definitely not a pro at all,” Saulnier says. “I'm very humbled every time I hit a golf ball.” But it’s all in good fun—and it's for a good cause—proceeds from the event will support the Wellness Room at the Ronald McDonald House at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
A desire to give back to the Nova Scotia community led to the creation of the foundation. Saulnier says she was brainstorming ways to support people who simply need a little help. She pitched her idea to her best friend, Izzy Germain, and the two got to work to make it happen. “That’s the legacy I want to leave, aside from the hockey side of things,” Saulnier says. “Being able to leverage the success that I’ve had in my hockey career to help others is a total win-win for me.”
The partnership with the Ronald McDonald House was a perfect fit, says Germain, chief operating officer of the foundation and tournament organizer. “Families use the Wellness Room to take a minute and relax,” Germain says. “That really aligned with our goals.” The room is a much-needed sanctuary for families to have a break from the clinical setting and enjoy a workout, meditation, massage, yoga, and other programming.
Last year’s inaugural charity golf classic was a big success; the tournament brought in $20,000 to support Ukrainian refugees living in Canada. Donations went to the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia resettlement fund. “Everybody had a smile on their face,” Germain says. “It's a special time that we can actually get away from our phones, go outside and enjoy the weather, and have fun in the cart.”
This year, five Olympians will be at the event. Golfers will have the chance to meet Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Sarah Nurse, Laura Stacey, and Blayre Turnbull. (And if you’re not a golfer, there’s still a chance to meet the Olympians. A public event will be held on August 8 at HFX Sports Bar & Grill that will include a meet and greet and silent auction. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more details.)
As Saulnier’s best friend, Germain says she sometimes forgets the impact meeting an Olympian can have on the public. “I’m surrounded by it all the time,” she says. “But to see the kids’ faces, it’s the easiest way to spread love around.”
And while some Olympians stash their gold medals in a display somewhere, to be seen and not touched, Saulnier is happy to share hers around. The joy that comes from placing it around people’s necks is unmatched. “Last year, I could predict every single word someone would say to Jill as soon as they saw the medal,” Germain says. “First thing is, oh, can I touch it? Yeah, you can have it. Oh my god, it's so heavy. And then the next question, is it real gold?”
It’s a meaningful exchange for everyone involved. “Seeing other people with it is one of my greatest happy moments,” Saulnier says.