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  • Paul Van Nest


Syl Apps was not only a hockey legend with the Toronto Maple Leafs; he was a member of the Rotary Club of Kingston and helped develop one of its largest fundraisers.

Raised in Paris, Ontario, Syl joined the Leafs in 1936, served 2 years in the war, returned to be named captain of the Leafs, and then retired in 1948. He was Kingston’s member of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly from 1963 until 1975, completing his service as Minister of Corrections from 1971 to 1975.

Syl joined our Rotary club the year he was first elected: 1963. When I joined Rotary in 1977, he was my director while I chaired the Youth Committee. He was an inspiration. We had both gone to McMaster University and apparently lived in the same room in residence; his name was carved into the stone windowsill and it is still there.

When his health deteriorated, Syl resigned from Rotary but always remained our friend. Our club’s commitment to raise $300,000 to start the Boys and Girls Club for Kingston in 1993 would come in the form of a unique golf tournament.

Jim Dorey, also an ex-Toronto Maple Leaf, and Mark Santoni, a Rotarian, proposed a celebrity golf tournament involving Leafs Alumnae. In 1993, Reg Shadbolt and Bill Cleland spoke with Syl, asking to use his name for this annual event. Syl readily agreed. Former Maple Leafs and other sports celebrities became regulars: Syl Apps Jr., Gus Bodnar, Carl Brewer, "Soupy" Campbell, Wayne Cashman, Dick Duff, Doug Gilmore, Billy Harris, Walt McKechnie, Kirk Muller, Bob Nevin, Pierre Pilote, Rick Smith, famed referee Red Storey, and Cliff Thorburn, the great pool player.

Tens of thousands of dollars were raised in that first year. The tournament continued for twenty years, allowing our club to first meet the goal of $300,000 and then doubling it to more than $600,000 for the Boys and Girls Club.

One particular tradition to the annual event and a moving experience for all was that a number of ex-Maple Leafs would meet with Syl on the Friday morning before the afternoon golf.

Teams of three were invited to play with a celebrity for $1500. Sponsors such as Allstate, The Ambassador, Capital Movers and Storage, CIBC Wood Gundy, Cupido Construction, Dominion TD Bank, Empire Life, Northern Telecom, RBC, were glad to come on board, year after year.

Mark Santoni and Jim Dorey remained co-chairs of the tournament for the 20 years. Major Dave Nolan, Operations Officer at CFB Kingston, hosted the event at the Garrison Golf Course. Vinnie Rebelo did a magnificent job of hosting at the Ambassador Hotel. John Keilty solicited the prizes. Norris McDonald of the Whig-Standard was our promotor. The Tragically Hip participated and was also supportive. Not all were Rotarians but they sure were friends of Rotary and the Boys and Girls Club.

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