A snowball’s chance

Washougal family in the running for a new Toyota Highlander

Ryan Stevens smashes a snowball with his hockey stick. The 14-year-old from Washougal plays for the Junior Winter Hawks. His family is one of 11 finalists hoping to become Toyota’s Winter Hawks Family of the Year.

Washougal family in the running for a new Toyota Highlander

Ron and Kelly Stevens have nurtured their children in the Winter Hawks’ nest.

Ryan Stevens attended his first hockey game when he was 10 days old. He grew up in Washougal playing East County Pop Warner and Clark County Youth Football.

When the Stanley Cup came to the Mountain View Ice Arena in 2011, Ryan waited in line for hours just to see it up close. A picture of him kissing the silver tin was published on The Columbian’s sports page.

Now at the age of 14, Ryan is in the middle of his first season as a Junior Winter Hawk.

“I’ve played football for a lot longer, but there aren’t any pro teams around here besides Seattle,” he said. “I can’t count how many hockey games I’ve been to. Also, autograph signings and team dinners. All of that stuff is really cool.”

Katelynn Stevens was three days younger than her brother when she went to her first Winter Hawks game. The 11-year-old just started her fifth season of competition at the Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy, in Camas. She also plays basketball for a Camas-Washougal recreational league, and has participated in soccer, softball and cheerleading.

All of those hockey games the Stevens enjoyed could pay off in a big way. Kelly entered the family into a Winter Hawks fans contest to win a one-year lease on a 2014 Toyota Highlander. It was on the same day Ryan met Derrick Pouliot, his favorite Winter Hawk, at the Ron Tonkin dealership, in Portland.

Kelly was shopping for groceries at Fred Meyer when she received a phone call from Dean Vrooman, the voice of the Winter Hawks. Vrooman contacted the Stevens to tell them they are one of 11 families selected from a pool of more than 275 entries to become the Toyota Hockey Family of the Year.

“I about dropped my phone. I’m sure I said ‘What? Who? And, oh my gosh’ about 10 times, as other shoppers looked at me like I was nuts,” Kelly said. “We know it’s a long shot to win, but at this point, we are trying to teach the kids that just like in sports, you never quit, no matter how far the odds are.”

People can vote for the Stevens once a day at www.winterhawks.com/toyota. The contest runs until Saturday, Feb. 22.

Ryan and Katelynn are knocking on doors in their neighborhood, and asking for community members to vote for their family.

“Our kids have grown up here, and we want them to know that even though we are from a small town, there’s no reason we can’t compete with other families in the contest,” Kelly said.

Ron Stevens said his children have blossomed through sports. They are building character traits and leadership qualities, while also making lots of friends.

“A lot of it is about effort,” Ron said. “If you don’t put in the effort, you don’t reap the rewards.”

School work comes first in the Stevens’ house. The games are second.

“The Junior Hawks require at least a 2.0 GPA in order to play,” Ryan said. “My dad requires a 3.0.”

Ryan will be a freshman at Washougal High School in the fall. He looks forward to trying out for the football team, and dreams of getting drafted by the Winter Hawks some day.

“I just want to enjoy every single day that these sports provide,” he said. “Just soak it all in for as long as I can.”