Jones wins Hearts in Killarney, reunites with biggest little fan


Team Jones didn’t just win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Killarney on Sunday; they also won hearts in the crowd, especially one local girl’s.

In fact, the Jennifer Jones rink won over seven-year-old Coraline Urquhart (Cora for short) at the Canada Cup over a year ago, along with several other curling teams. It was all thanks to the work of local curler Lisa Blixhavn, who arranged it all for Cora and her family.

“Her wish was to meet us,” said Jennifer Jones, when asked about Cora, in an interview after the closing ceremonies of the Manitoba Scotties on Sunday. “We met her at the Canada Cup in Brandon. We’ve communicated with her on and off, and she just had some great medical news in the last few months. So it was nice to see her again, happy and healthy and smiling.”

The good news was that Cora would no longer have to endure hospital stays, surgeries, and regularly scheduled tests. It was the best news that her parents, Adam and Kyla Urquhart, could have hoped for.

“2016 was probably the worst year we had health-wise with Cora,” said her mom, Kyla. “She had been really complacent, and really easy going, and kind of took everything in stride. Then she hit a bit of a wall in 2016, and I think she was realizing that not every kid had to go through the things she was going through. So she really started having a hard time, kind of coping with what was all going on.”

In the summer of 2016, Cora’s family decided it was time to give her something to look forward to.

“We had been recommended to go and talk to the Westman Dreams for Kids, but we talked about it and decided we didn’t want to take time and money from another kid that could use something,” said Kyla. “We thought if we could do it on our own, that would be better. So we got in touch with Lisa Blixhavn, and she put us in touch with Team Jones, on top of all the other amazing stuff she got for us.”

Blixhavn actually sent out an email to all her curling buddies, and soon a deluge of swag began to pour in. Cora now has a dozen treasured curling jerseys from all over Canada, which she wears regularly and wore throughout last week’s Scotties.

A big community curling themed birthday party, held at the Killarney Legion Hall, was another huge highlight for Cora in September of 2016, as a major surgery to remove her kidney loomed.

“We had her birthday party, and three weeks later on October 13, 2016 she had her last big open surgery. She had a nephrectomy – the removal of her lower left kidney. She’d struggled from birth with infections,” explained Kyla. “It was discovered, after a renal scan in 2013, that she was born with three kidneys. After seven different day surgeries and one open surgery with no success, the nephrectomy was the last resort.”

Cora’s nephrectomy was a success, but the recovery was long and rough.

“All through her recovery, and from August on, we used the Jones team as her distraction,” said Kyla. “So we’d talk about them…just to sort of get her through and have something to look forward to, and it made a huge difference.”

On December 2, 2016, the Urquharts took their whole family, which also includes five-year old Meggie and 11-year-old Emerson, to the Canada Cup in Brandon.

“We took all the kids in for three days and watched all the curling, and met quite a few of the teams. Even coming off a loss, every single team we met was just awesome, and treated Cora and the girls so nicely, and we got quite a few pictures,” continued Kyla. “We met Team Jones, and Cora kind of got to go behind where they do the media interviews, and have a few minutes by herself with them, and got a couple of pictures, and got her jersey, which they signed. And Jennifer Jones gave Cora her broom. She came flying out and was just grinning from ear to ear – she had such a big smile.”

The Urquhart family stayed in contact with Team Jones, and when they knew they were coming to Killarney for the Manitoba Scotties, Cora was pretty excited.

“They got to have a bit more of a visit, and spend a little bit more time together,” said Kyla of Cora’s Scotties’ experience with Team Jones. “She really doesn’t think of them as world class Olympic curlers; they’re just her friends. So it’s kind of funny to watch them all together.”

Jennifer Jones was emotional when talking about Cora, and the effect of their initial meeting and reunion.

“I think us meeting her almost meant more to us than her,” she explained, stopping for a moment to contain her emotions. “Just the impact that it had on us. It’s pretty powerful, and I feel pretty privileged that we’re in this position. And hopefully we can be an inspiration to a few more kids along the way.

“It’s happened to me twice,” said Jones of her team’s chance to meet with sick children who were huge fans. “You know, when you start off curling you think you’re just doing it for fun and it’s great. Then you realize the impact you can make on people’s lives…and then you see these kids, and then you become a mom and you just realize the heartache these parents are going through, and if you can bring any ounce of joy to that family…it’s pretty powerful.”

2017 was a much better year for Cora, and 2018 has started off with a bang for the young curling fan. She’s even started junior curling herself, for the first time on Monday.

She will still have annual appointments with a paediatric nephrologist for the next few years, said her mom, but Cora is doing very well.

And the kindness shown to her has amazed and overwhelmed her family.

“She missed a lot of school. She was at home laying on the couch, or laying in bed, not feeling well, and we watched a lot of curling,” said Kyla of the reason her daughter wanted to meet Team Jones. “She’s a rink rat, and we all curl, so that was her thing. But none of the curling stuff that Cora received, or the people she met, or anything, would have happened without Lisa Blixhavn taking the extra time to pay a little kindness forward.”

See this Friday’s Killarney Guide for much more coverage of the Manitoba Scotties, and view more photos from Cora’s journey below.

Scotties experience…

Cora was on cloud nine at the opening ceremonies, as she was able to carry the banner for Team Jones (from left): Dawn McEwen, Jill Officer, Kaitlyn Lawes, and Jennifer Jones.


Cora takes a walk down the rink, past the Scotties volunteers, to congratulate Team Jones on their big win during the awards ceremonies.


Behind the scenes…

Killarney teacher and curling star Lisa Blixhavn hugs Cora, who’s wearing her Team Einarson jersey. Blixhavn is responsible for lining up much of the loot that Cora has received from curling teams, and the Urquhart family couldn’t be more grateful. Cora was very excited to see Lisa curl during the Scotties in Killarney, as was everyone else in town that rooted for her during her three games as lead with Team Jenn Clark-Rouire (JCR). Team JCR finished with a record of 3-4.


Cora was pretty happy to see Team Einarson again last week. She’s wearing the jersey they gave her at Canada Cup. She got lots of high fives, hugs and waves from these four during the Scotties.


Journey to Jones…

Cora three days after the nephrectomy in October 2016 at the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg.


Here she is with a load of loot on Halloween 2016, but instead of candy, it’s gifts of curling gear making her smile. Cora has met many generous curlers along the way.

Canada Cup experience…

Team McEwen gave Cora a jersey and a card when she was in Winnipeg for her surgery, and posed with her here at the Canada Cup in Brandon.


Chelsea Carey with Cora at the Canada Cup. Carey had sent her the jersey she’s wearing, which was part of the surprise package of curling loot dropped off by Lisa Blixhavn after the nephrectomy.


Five months in the making, and a delighted Cora finally met Team Jones. She got a signed jersey and broom, and an amazing experience at the Canada Cup in December of 2016.