By Carolyn Marnon – Champions of Wayne is partnering with Phoenix Theatres for the Annual Premier Red Carpet Fundraiser and an exclusive private screening of “Willie” on Wednesday, September 25. Tickets are $50 per person and are available at www.championsofwayne.org. Please reserve your ticket by September 16. Included in the ticket price is a catered VIP Red Carpet Reception, beer and wine, an opportunity to meet the cast and crew, and entertainment by Don Swindel.
“Willie” documents the amazing life of Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the National Hockey League who broke the color barrier in 1958. The documentary follows the incredible story of Willie’s family from his great-grandfather’s escape from slavery and flight to Canada, to Willie’s ascent to hockey’s highest honor-induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 12, 2018. Willie’s life transcends hockey-it is a journey in pursuit of an opportunity to blaze new trails and inspire people of all races, both historic in its sweep and scope, and relevant to our current day.
According to Willie, he set two goals for himself when he was 14 years old-to play pro hockey and to play in the National Hockey League. He says it never occurred to him that he was opening doors and breaking down barriers for players of color. Willie was the first negro to play in the National Hockey League. No one knew at the time that he was blind in one eye. He played 45 games in the NHL and played 21 years as a pro. “I think you have to have the courage to take that one step beyond and follow your dream,” says Willie in a 4-minute video on the NHL.com website.
According to Champions of Wayne Executive Director Deborah Vigliarolo, Willie does a lot of volunteer work for underprivileged children. The screening of this film at Phoenix Theatres State Wayne is the major fundraising event for the champions program whose principle mission is to transform student obstacles to success by way of an incentive-based mentoring system so that each student graduates in the best way possible.
“Willie” will also be screening at the Windsor International Film Festival that runs November 1-30. Tickets for that are available starting October 10 at www.windsorfilmfestival.com.