Mike Wild takes a fatherly approach to giving back to his community. For the past 17 years, the independent financial advisor and his wife, Joan, have opened their home in Dartmouth, N.S., their hearts and their refrigerator to young players on the Halifax Mooseheads hockey team in need of a place to call home.
The Wilds participate in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team's billeting program, through which local families provide room and board for players who hail from outside the region.
"You take care of them when they're upset," Wild says. "You support them. You nurse them when they're ill. You become their family."
The Wilds first became involved with the Mooseheads in 1996, only two years after the team was established in Halifax. Along with some colleagues, Wild had advertised his practice during the games and received season tickets as a result.
"I hadn't been in a hockey rink in 20 years," Wild recalls. "Opening night, I went with my wife. We fell in love with it."
Today, the Wilds are the longest-serving billets and Joan now co-ordinates the program for the Mooseheads, whose players range in age from 15 to 20. Some years, Wild and his family, which includes a daughter, now 25, and a son, now 32, have taken in two team members at a time.
The premise of the program is straightforward, Wild says: "You take in a player, and that player stays with you as long as he is on the team."
Many players who had lived with the Wilds have gone on to professional hockey careers. One, for example, now plays for the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks. The Wilds are planning a trip to Germany this year to visit this player's parents.
"You develop really close ties with some members," Wild says. "It's hard when they go. It can be tough."
Taking in a young hockey player, who often is far from home and feeling the insecurity that comes with being in unfamiliar territory and a competitive sport, requires more than three square meals a day and a curfew. Bonds are established - and rules are tested.
"We've had very little trouble over the years," Wild adds. "At this level, these guys are very dedicated. They don't screw up very often. But they are teenage boys."
Sometimes, the billeted players are moved to give back to the community.
One such player, Konrad Abeltshauser, who now plays for the American Hockey League's Worcester Sharks in Massachusetts, participated in an initiative with the Canadian Wheelchair Association that was designed to raise awareness about people who are confined to wheelchairs.
Wild is active in his community in other ways, too. He has spent 25 years as a member of Kin Canada (the service club better known as the Kinsmen), overseeing development and completion of the Kinsmen Community Service Centre in Dartmouth.
He served for 10 years as a board member - two as chairman - of the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation, which has helped to fund three major building expansions and which has raised more than $35 million for the hospital. Wild sat on the finance committee,
Wild, owner of Wild Illsley Insurance and Financial Services Ltd., has 36 years' experience in the financial services sector. He believes his profession carries an obligation to contribute to the community outside of work hours.
"It's our responsibility," he says. "It's important to be involved in the community. This community has been really good to me. I want to give back." That duty to give back, he adds, comes without strings or expectations. "It's not about business. If it's about networking, you shouldn't be there."
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