By MARTY FORBESFor the past 13 years Kraft, in conjunction with the NHL and NHLPA, has presented Hockeyville where small communities across Canada apply for assistance from the program to direct to sporting needs in their town.Each weekend during the hockey season you’ll see them hosting concerts and other fun stuff in small towns from coast to coast in Canada.This past year the program was close to home as Rich Valley made the Final Four.Rich Valley is a small community located just 45 minutes northwest of Edmonton, near Lac Ste Anne.Their hockey arena is truly the life-blood of not only their community, but several other bedroom communities as it acts as an overflow site for hockey and figure skating programs in Onoway, Barrhead, Calahoo, Mayerthorpe, Sangudo, the Alexa First nation and to Stony Plain and Spruce Grove.It’s where kids learn to skate, sports teams come together throughout the year, local farmers show off their hard work, and families and friends join together to celebrate milestone events that support each other through the hard times. Seven men’s leagues operate out of the arena and the complex is used year round. This past fall when they went to crank up the 32-year-old ice maker the unit promptly shut down and they lost all their 2018-19 games just two days before the season was supposed to start. So an amazing modern day barn building program started. The entire community and surrounding towns instantly rallied together to get this unit either fixed or replaced. Sadly there’s no such thing as a fix for a unit so out of date so the hunt was on for a replacement.First call – Kraft Hockeyville – and lo and behold they made the final cut for funding along with towns in Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.And it’s big money – a quarter of a million dollars goes to the winner, plus the community gets to host an NHL pre-season game to reward them for their dedication to the project.Everywhere you went in this area of Alberta you’d see their team in action. Voting booths were set up in stores; a big breakfast was held as well as a viewing party to watch the final announcement.During Kraft Hockeyville Day, volunteers served over 600 pancakes and about 570 boxes of Kraft Dinner. Everybody – I repeat – everybody showed up.Sadly the honour and cash went to the East Coast and Rich Valley received the consolation prize of $25K. Did this stop them? Nope. Rally point. Their community group is now in high gear to at least get the first part of the funding needed to get the ice machine up and running for next season. In a stroke of luck they found a slightly used unit that became available – and they’ll need about $140,000 to get it installed.Local board member Steve Bortle tells me “This stopped our weekly free-skating nights, took away ice time from our surrounding minor hockey associations, and meant that our local kids either missed out on hockey and skating for the year – or had to travel 30 km or more to join other communities.” As per the disappointment on not winning the big prize?“I was disappointed but I think we’ll get way more out of it by not winning. The community and nothing has changed. We all want this for our kids and everybody is getting behind us.”There are 12 people on the organizing committee but the entire area is jumping in to help. Almost every local business also kicked in funding or assistance. They’ve already held a sold out Duelling Piano night, and there’s a big steak supper scheduled in May. There’s also a big show n’ shine at the Agriplex on Aug. 24. More plans are being developed as of this writing.The group is applying for financial assistance through a few other select groups, and the fundraising will continue until the project is complete. Money is also needed for other improvements in and around the complex. There’s also an active GoFundMe page if you wish to help out.Steve wants to credit the media for helping out during the Hockeyville announcement day and specifically CFCW, who focusses on many very worthy rural projects. He especially wants to thank morning folks Stella Stevens and co-host Greg Shannon.Greg adds: “In a time of economic and political strife, it made me smile seeing this tiny town rally together and stand tall in support of their rink. It was true togetherness with a carnival atmosphere and were welcomed with opened arms. Have to thank the tailgaters who helped my son unstuck my station truck.”So a big shout out to the community builders in Rich Valley and surrounding towns for their dedication to the arena. If you want more information check them out on their social Media platforms, Facebook; Twitter and Instagram. The full Kraft Hockeyville – Rich Valley story is found at richvalley.ca as well.