Blue Jackets most important fight - Hockey Fights Cancer night
For a team with the color blue as part of their name, the Columbus Blue Jackets are doing something unique this Friday for their game against Toronto – they are turning Nationwide Arena purple.
Purple is the signature color of the NHL’s awareness initiative “Hockey Fights Cancer” that focuses on raising money and awareness throughout the NHL’s US and Canadian charitable foundations.
“Hockey Fights Cancer is a great celebration of the work the Blue Jackets Foundation does all year long focused on fighting pediatric cancer,” said Jen Bowden, Executive Director of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation. “Our fans know the work the Foundation does, and this reminds them that there is so much work to do.”
Hockey Fights Cancer night is a significant contributor to the pediatric cancer initiatives that the Foundation funds. Last year the Foundation raised $240,000 towards grants that fund programs dedicated to their core mission of helping Central Ohio kids get healthy, play safe and stay active.
“The funds raised (for pediatric cancer) go to research but also to programming that helps kids take their minds off the treatment that they are going through,” said Alison Pegg, Manager of the Blue Jackets Foundation. “Programs that provide experience and art therapy are just some of the ways we look to help make a child’s battle with cancer a little bit easier.”
The Jackets are providing a variety of ways for fans to contribute to the cause. The Foundation had custom Hockey Fights Cancer T-shirts that will be available at the Blue Line starting on Friday. Additionally, 2013 edition “Hats for Heroes” – annual collector’s hats that benefit the Foundation – will be sold. The in-arena 50/50 raffle will also benefit pediatric cancer.
“We want to raise as much money as we can but we also want each and every fan to be a part of our cause,” said Pegg. “So many people are touched by cancer we want to provide a way for everyone to get involved.”
In addition to encouraging fans to wear purple, every person in attendance at Friday’s game will receive a cheer card to honor someone they know who has faced a battle with cancer. The Jackets also plan to draw attention through social media – asking fans to use the hashtag #CBJHFC throughout the night.
“We want to make sure people walk away recognizing what the Blue Jackets and the NHL do in support of Hockey Fights Cancer,” Bowden said.
Blue Jackets players are participating as well. The team will wear limited edition replica purple jerseys for warm-ups that will be autographed and auctioned off through a silent auction.
Perhaps the most special part of Friday’s game, however, is what will happen right before the puck drops.
Every year, in cooperation with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Foundation names their “Pediatric Cancer Heroes” - a group of young patients who take part in programming with the Blue Jackets throughout the year.
Erica Decker, mother of one of last year’s Heroes, Lily, knows what an impact this relationship can have.
“Who would have thought that throughout Lily’s treatment that the one constant would be the Blue Jackets and the Blue Jackets Foundation,” Decker said.
This year, the Foundation wants the community to get to know these children better.
“We want to shine a spotlight on the courage that these young patients demonstrate,” Bowden said. “We’ll be introducing our Heroes alongside the players with an on-ice salute to honor them and begin a relationship between them and our fans.”
Every year the Heroes leave a real mark on the organization – returning year after year to Hockey Fights Cancer night.
“It’s really fun – we get to check in on them and celebrate where they are,” said Bowden.
Ultimately the Jackets and the Foundation hope Friday will be a way to mark the fight against cancer that has touched many of their fans.
“Whether you’re walking the concourse or waiting in line, people want to tell you how cancer has touched their lives,” Bowden said. “To provide a forum for that and witness it is a powerful thing.”
You can join in the Hockey Fights Cancer activities at the next Jackets home game, Friday, October 25th. For more information or to buy tickets, visit bluejackets.nhl.com.