Some people might view wrestling as a sport. Others see it as entertainment.
For Mike Chisholm, co-founder of Invasion Championship Wrestling, he sees wrestling as an interactive artform.
However you want to describe it, the Invasion Wrestling events, which Chisholm and his partner Mike Rizzo started in the fall of 2013, have evolved into unique fundraisers.
Chisholm estimates the wrestling cards have generated more than $100,000 in donations to local charity groups both in Kelowna and Vernon.
“We are very, very proud of how it has gone,” Chisholm said. “There is nothing else like it in the Okanagan. It is something other than a golf tournament or a walk, a community event that helps support some awesome charitable causes.”
Chisholm says he enjoy watching a parent bringing young children to the wrestling matches and getting caught up in the drama unfolding.
“They may be sitting there a little sheepish at first while their kids are jumping up and down but within 10 minutes of the show starting, a suspension of disbelief kicks in and then they are standing up and screaming as well.
“Wrestling is a very interactive event. Wrestlers feed off the crowd’s energy and we get great crowds at our events. The energy is that room is truly contagious. We have a following now and we feel we’ve tapped into something special, and we are very excited about that.”
Invasion Championship Wrestling returns this weekend with Rumble in Rutland on Friday, 7:30 p.m., at Centennial Hall; and Danger Zone on Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at the Vernon Recreation Centre. Tickets are available at kelownainvasion.com.
At the press conference announcing the Invasion Wrestling cards for this weekend, the latest donation recipients were also unveiled—Mamas for Mamas received $4,000, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club $4,000 and Okanagan YMCA Strong Kids campaign $3,000.
Similar donations will also go to the boys and girls club and North Okanagan Neurological Association in Vernon.
Shannon Christensen, executive director and founder of the poverty relief support group Mamas for Mamas, said the Invasion wrestling donations have helped keep their doors open as a community funded service with not as yet any provincial funding support.
“To keep our doors open we are out hustling and working with people like you to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Christensen in accepting the donation cheque from Chisholm on Tuesday.
“(Mamas for Mamas) gives so much hope to moms, dads and kids who are just trying to get by. We can do better and because of you guys we are doing better. We are a movement, not a moment, and you are all now part of that movement.”
Rhonda Zakala, Okanagan YMCA general manager of fund development, also touched on the child poverty aspect of the donation support, noting the recent BC Child Poverty rate study found in some catchment areas of Kelowna more than 40 per cent of children are living below the poverty line.
“I am so proud to be in the ring with these other amazing charities and what they give back to the community as well,” Zakala said. “It’s so important we all keep our doors open to help those in need in our community.”
Chisholm is excited about some new aspects of this year’s Invasion Championship Wrestling weekend, starting with the participation of wrestling legend Mick Foley, a WWE Hall of Fame inductee.
“Mick was here two years ago and fell in love with the Okanagan and developed a relationship with the Mamas for Mamas charity. He even became an honourary Mama,” he said.
“We are delighted to have this relationship with Mick, and it wouldn’t happen without the dynamic and amazing charities in the valley we support.”
Beyond his appearance at the wrestling events this weekend, Foley will also host a wrestling seminar at Centennial Hall on Friday, 3 p.m., with up and coming wrestlers from across the Pacific Northwest invited to attend, with the potential opportunity to take part in the Vernon ‘battle royal’ match on Saturday.
“He doesn’t do this kind of thing very often but we are happy to be able to give back to the independent wrestling community in this way,” Chisholm said.
Foley will also do a meet-and-greet event in Vernon with all the other wrestlers on Saturday, 3 p.m., at the Wings Tap & Grill restaurant, and he will give a retrospective on his wrestling career at the Rutland Wings restaurant, located in Willow Park Shopping Centre, on Sunday night.
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