Community: A 'Suite' Night
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Eric’s Entourage: Eric Staal, and his wife, Tanya, created Eric’s Entourage to invite non-profit children’s organizations to come experience a hockey game VIP style in their all-inclusive suite. It is a night out for children who are battling with something in their life that most of us take for granted. Groups that have come to Eric’s Entourage this year are:
- Boys and Girls Club, Durham Performance Learning Center, Genesis Home, UNC Cancer Centers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, One Economy-Bee Hive, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and the BounceBack Kids.
When I went to visit Eric’s Entourage on Friday night, I left knowing that there is truly nothing that I should complain about in my life. The BounceBack Kids is an organization whose goal is to enrich the lives of children with serious medical conditions. Executive Director, Lisa Brachman, and the other fantastic directors provide sport and recreational programs free of cost to the children and their families. It is a way to form support systems and help get the kids minds off of what they are battling with each day. I met children on Friday who are currently battling with Juvenile Arthritis, brain tumors, a severe sun allergy, and Marfan Syndrome. Each child was so full of joy even though they were currently battling with a severe or chronic illness. After speaking with two parents about the different forms of chemotherapy they were using and talking with a dad about how his precious 5-year old boy will eventually have to have open heart surgery, it made me realize we all need to just tough it out when we get a headache or have a “bad” day.
Cam’s Champs: Cam Ward, and his wife Cody, created Cam’s Champs to invite sport organizations focused on children with special needs to their all-inclusive suite. The participants have either a physical or cognitive disability and are unable to participate in sports without assistance. These organizations work to provide an opportunity for every child! Groups that have come to Cam’s Champs this year are:
- Special Olympics of North Carolina, Consolidated Football Federation: Triangle Challenger Division, Triangle Special Hockey Association, and the Miracle League of the Triangle.
A little boy with autism named C.J. touched my heart when I met him at Friday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has autism and is confined to a wheelchair. His smile lit up the entire suite and brought me so much joy to sit and talk with him and his beautiful mother. He was one of the players in the suite who play football for the Pop Warner Triangle Challenger Division. Each player is assigned a buddy for the entire season that assists them with the ball and navigating the field. Each child in the suite was so much fun and they would not be able to play football without this program in our area.
Ward’s Warriors: Aaron Ward created Ward’s Warriors in partnership with Volvo Rents/ASC Construction Equipment to give out to various military personnel to come and experience his all-inclusive suite. The military we have had this season are:
- National Guard, Pope AirForce Base, Gold Star Families, and this week we will be honoring “Wounded Warriors” members.
During Friday night’s game, I met an amazing woman who was a part of the Gold Star Families. She spoke to me about how her son was killed in action overseas last March. It was her first hockey game, and she was enjoying her night out! Her daughter-in-law and granddaughter were able to join her, as they experienced a Hurricanes game in honor of their son, husband, and father that they had lost. It is truly a blessing to have so many brave men and women fight for our country, and it is an honor to invite them to Ward’s Warriors each game.
It is an honor to meet and get to know all of the people that enter these suites each game. The kind gesture of the three players has brought more joy than I can explain to each organization that has been invited to a game. I look forward to hearing the stories and meeting each person that will enter a Player Charity Suite this season!