The Charlotte Checkers announced Friday, April 8, that thanks to donations, fan support and help from team partners and friends, a house has been purchased for Zach Bennett and his family, who will relocate to Charlotte from Albany, N.Y.
Zach is an 11-year-old boy who suffers from neurofibromatosis (NF1). As former season ticket holders of the Albany River Rats, the Bennett family has established close relationships with many current Checkers players and will now head south to the Queen City for better medical care and to be closer to the team.
An announcement was made in January that some of the many fundraising efforts the Checkers put forth in a season would be focused to help Zach and his family move.
"The bond between Zach and our players is like nothing I have ever seen," said Checkers COO Tera Black. "To be able to help reunite him with his friends and teammates is something we as an organization are truly proud of."
The following fundraising initiatives were implemented and helped the Checkers acquire a portion of the funds necessary to make this acquisition possible: a live post-game jersey auction; Facebook Fandemonium 2 -- a social media program in which the Checkers donated $2 for every new "like" on Facebook; a silent auction held by the Carolina Hurricanes at their game on Apr. 3; fan donations; and a future eBay auction of the Checkers' black jerseys, which were donated by Amtrak.
After the home was purchased, several partners of the Checkers joined the cause and donated materials and labor to make necessary upgrades for handicap accessibility. Timberstone Homes, a local builder, volunteered time and resources to lead the reconstruction efforts and completely retro-fit the home to the family's needs.
Additional partners who helped in the project include Husqvarna, who donated a riding lawn-mower and AutoTrader.com, who donated the jerseys for the live auction in January.
Zach and his family were presented the keys to the house on Friday at the Checkers game and will relocate to Charlotte at the end of April. Moving expenses will also be covered by the team and its partners.
It was definitely emotional. I really appreciated the fans. It was a cool feeling and it felt special and the ovation there at the start and then you kind of feel funny out there standing by yourself. Thinking back, I was saying just a bit ago, you think back just trying to make the NHL and then you kind of reflect on all the years being able to play for a great organization here in Calgary and all the fun I've had so far in my career. I feel very fortunate and blessed.
— Boston forward Jarome Iginla on his return to Calgary, where he played for 16 seasons