20 years of Fife Flyers links with CHAS

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It is one of the most enduring partnerships in sport.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Fife Flyers’ links with CHAS and Rachel House in Kinross.

Fife Flyers CHAS fundraising night circa 1997/98 - staged with support from rivals Paisley Pirates. Players on ice include Frank Morris and Gary Wishart

Fife Flyers CHAS fundraising night circa 1997/98 - staged with support from rivals Paisley Pirates. Players on ice include Frank Morris and Gary Wishart

Many sports clubs have an official charity which they raise funds for – but Flyers also broke new ground by adding the CHAS logo to their official strips and replicas back in 1996/97, the first pro sports team in the UK to make such a move.

And the famous rocking horse has been part of the club’s kit when it has won championships, claimed a Grand Slam, and been at the heart of its fundraising ever since.

On Sunday, Flyers will celebrate the landmark by wearing specially designed strips which will then be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Rachel House.

The original link between the club and CHAS was driven by Mark Morrison.

Fife Flyers CHAS fundraising night from 1990s - Steven King signing autographs during the post-game event

Fife Flyers CHAS fundraising night from 1990s - Steven King signing autographs during the post-game event

He’d quietly gone about forging his own links with CHAS - turning up one day to offer his help.

Writing in his testimonial programme, Norma Adam, CHAS fundraiser, spoke of ‘’a quiet spoken, almost shy man with a deep conviction that he wanted to help in any way he could.”

That introductory visit led to a 20-year association between the club and CHAS.

Rachel House had just opened its doors on the back of a massive fundraising campaign - finance and awareness were key to its on-going presence.

Mark became an official volunteer and driver with CHAS, and his commitment ran deep.

Privately, he spent many hours chatting with the kids on many visits to Rachel House, and supporting families going through some of the toughest imaginable journeys. He’d answer calls at all hours of the day or night.

He’d play computer games and teach the kids more than a few wicked card tricks!

‘’He enriched the lives of so many children at Rachel House, spending time with them, talking to them, and just being part of their lives’,’ wrote Susan McLean, a former care team member at Rachel House.

Mark – known to all as Mo – also wanted the link to continue after he’d moved on - he saw this very much as an on-going association, so he got everyone at the club involved.

The annual CHAS nights became special. Buckets were filled rinkside, the money collected by the players and then transported upstairs where a team of volunteers counted it and kept the rising total updated.

Mark also took the team to Rachel House for a memorable tour conducted by the children themselves.

They had hockey players in pinnies making cakes, challenged them to assorted video games, and had a blast hanging out with the guys they came to watch every weekend.

And that was the other part of the partnership.

There was an open invite to any family using Rachel House to come and see the game as guests of the team.

They didn’t need to book – simply turn up and make use of the raised viewing area outside the curling bar. Every week it was packed with kids, families and CHAS staff.

And straight after the final whistle the invite was extended to the dressing-room – on more than one game night a procession of wheelchairs rolled into the cramped changing room as the kids revelled in their ‘access all areas’ status.

Midweeks, when the crowds were gone, also saw kids down at the rink for a fun session on the ice.

On at least one occasion they convinced Mo to stage a scrimmage game to let them freewheel round the ice chasing a puck!

The bond was perhaps best illustrated by one young man, Martyn McLoughlin.

He was one of the youngsters Mark met at Rachel House and would make a point of trying to see every time he visited.

Martyn became a regular rinkside, and he too wrote his own tribute in Mark’s testimonial programme.

“I loved hearing his stories about playing with Fife Flyers,’’ he wrote. ‘’When I was very ill with a chest infection he and the rest of the team sent me a ’get well’ card. I treasured it.

‘’He’d take the time to play computer games and cards with me (and that needed a lot of patience!), and was always interested in what had been happening to me since his last visit.’’

Martyn summed up the bond best of all when he added: ‘’He treated me as an individual and an adult; not something that happens very often when you are in a wheelchair.

‘’I never fail to have a huge smile on my face when he waves me to me when he first comes out on to the ice.’’

His words underline the emotional ties that bind Fife Flyers and CHAS to this day.

Rachel House is a place that buzzes with noise, energy and life.

To be given a guided tour by the children – as the players were – is to have your eyes opened to their honest, open approach to life and how to live it, even if your time is incredibly limited. Every day is precious.

The house has a wall that is packed with memorabilia from some of the biggest names in sport, music and entertainment world - Ewan MacGregor, the band Texas, both regular visitors, along with players from Rangers and Dundee United to name but a few who have all made many private visits.

Thanks to Mark Morrison, and the fans who have embraced CHAS, pride of place has gone to Fife Flyers for almost 20 years.

The money raised rinkside via the annual appeals has gone directly to Rachel House.

The presence of the logo on the back of the strips has opened the door to countless conversations asking ‘’so, what’s with the rocking horse…?’’

Being able to spread that awareness has been priceless.

Rachel House is an incredibly special place, staffed by the most amazing people.

It celebrates the joy of life in the most incredibly heartbreaking of circumstances.

For 20 years ice hockey fans in Fife have given generously.

The auction this weekend should add a few more thousand pounds to the running total – and that would thrill the man who made it happen.

Mark is currently assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL.

The link he forged with CHAS is part of his legacy of his time in Fife.