Knocking out hunger with 'Knuckles' Nilan

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - A legendary NHL tough guy and a boxing ring full of hungry amateurs gave the Agape Centre a fighting chance at ending the effects of poverty.

From left are pro boxer Tony Luis, Natalie Trottier, an Agape Centre board member, former NHLer Chris 'Knuckles' Nilan, and Alyssa Blais, Agape Centre executive director.

Former Montreal Canadien Chris 'Knuckles' Nilan spent his time on the ice as a fearless enforcer ready to drop his gloves for his teammates.

But the Stanley Cup winner was fighting for charity at the Nav Centre in Cornwall Saturday.

"It's a cool event because it gives people a reason to come out other than just the charity; it intertwines sports," said Nilan, in his thick Boston accent. "Tonight, we have a bunch of young men chasing their dreams to be boxers and the money will help the food bank - supporting this is a no-brainer."

The Agape Centre provides nearly 150 families a week with four days worth of food. The $50,000 raised at the amateur boxing fundraiser will help to keep their shelves full.

"When you look at the problem of hunger, not just in the Cornwall area but throughout the country, there are 820,000 people who use the food bank every month and 38 per cent are kids," he said. "That means they're going off to school hungry, and with the amount of money Canada has that should never happen."

Unlike most guest speakers at events, he had no personal connection to the cause. But because of Nilan's successful career in the NHL, he's able to use his fame to help those in need. He compared the Agape Centre's fight against poverty to the rivalries he faced in hockey.

"I was a fighter in the game and this is no different - we have to stamp out hunger," said Nilan.

For $200 a ticket, the 186 in attendance enjoyed a full-course dinner, drinks, entertainment, and six rounds of amateur boxing. The fourth annual event is the biggest fundraiser for the Agape Centre this year.

Alyssa Blais, executive director at the Agape Centre, thanked past board member Luc Marion for rallying the sponsors of the event.

"He's the one who gets people in the seats," said Blais.

Cornwall pro boxer Tony Luis acted as an official during the high-energy charity fundraiser and Councillor Dave Murphy provided colourful commentary as emcee.

Blais also credited Luis' father, Jorge, owner/operator Champs Eastside Boxing Club, for giving the event its edge.

"Without Jorge, Luc, and our main sponsor C.M.G. Innovation this night wouldn't have happened," she said.

For more information about the Agape Centre, visit agapecentre.ca.

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