Marit Cup makes a difference

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Organ donation recipient Mark Klassen gets ready for the ceremonial face-off at the 4th annual Marit Cup with Principal Jason Kupery and student-team captain David Nielsen, while Susan and Bruce McKenzie flank him.

CALGARY - Even in hockey-mad Canada, not every game holds a greater meaning. Calgary Christian Secondary School’s fourth annual Marit Cup, however, was an exception.

Played before friends and family at Canada Olympic Park, the teacher-student hockey game is all about making a difference.  It celebrates the legacy of former student Marit McKenzie by encouraging the selfless act of organ donation, and has also resulted in making a post-secondary education a little easier for a Palliser Regional Schools student.

“It ties in nicely in that we are outward looking, as opposed to inward looking,” said Principal Jason Kupery of Calgary Christian Secondary. “We are about what we can do for others, as opposed to what we can take.”

Each graduating student at Calgary Christian must complete a senior project which gives back to the community. Grateful for the organ received by a schoolmate, Marit’s project raised awareness and funds for the David Foster Foundation and its direct family support for those receiving an organ donation.

She passed away just months after graduating, but the school has picked up the torch for her. On this occasion, staff and students were provided with a living reminder of just how vital organ donations are.

Dropping the puck for the opening face-off was Mark Klassen, who received Marit’s pancreas and a kidney in 2013. He said his quality of life has improved “incredibly” since the donation, which freed him from eight hours of kidney dialysis each night.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that and the gift that Marit gave me,” said Klassen, who met her parents Bruce and Susan McKenzie just days before the game. “I’m thankful every day.”

The family has received correspondence from some of the other recipients of Marit’s organs but Klassen was the first they’ve met personally. Susan said the visit brought home just how much Marit’s gifts have meant, not only for the recipient but their families as well.

“Five lives have been changed and two more people can see again, so it’s huge,” said Marit’s mother. “She knew that from Day 1 and I know she’d be happy with the end result. I believe she’s watching over us all.”

Funds raised through the Marit Cup go to charitable organizations including the David Foster Foundation. For more information on the foundation go to

An endowment fund set up after her passing has allowed Calgary Christian to offer a $1,000-Marit McKenzie Scholarship each year to a student pursuing a post-secondary education in the fine arts.

Kupery said the school felt it important that the scholarship be available not only to their own students, but all Palliser students. The same applies for others like the Alex Schaap Memorial Scholarship, for those going into the field of technology.

“If we expect our students to be outward-thinking, we need to model that behaviour to our students,” he says. “When you have an embarrassment of riches like we do, it would be selfish to hold on to that and not let other students benefit.”

For more information on these and other Palliser scholarships, go to

Following the hockey game and assorted on-ice competitions, everyone returned to the school for a hotdog lunch and inspirational words from special guests.

Martin Parnell ran 250 marathons in 2010 and has raised more than $1 million for Right to Play. Whether their “shining star” was Marit  – or in his case Terry Fox – he told the students it’s important they find a cause they are passionate about and go out and make a difference in the world.

Alvin Law, a motivational speaker who was born without arms after his birth mother took Thalidomide, urged the students to be “a giver and not a taker.” He also applauded their efforts to date.

“You did something bigger than Marit today; something bigger than life,” he said.

The students also heard earlier from Dwayne Peace, of Life Synergy for Youth.