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Duchene Skates For A Great Cause And Brave Girl

by Dan Rosen | NHL.com / Colorado Avalanche

Erin Anderson calls it a "force of the universe," because she really has no other explanation for how her 5-year-old daughter Haven and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene became close friends.

"She truly loves him," Anderson said.

Duchene feels the same way about Haven, whom he met at a Hockey Fights Cancer skating event early in the 2014-15 season.

"She's one of those people that just brings so much happiness and joy into your life with her smile," he said.

This love, this bond, has fueled Duchene's passion to help fight pediatric cancer, the kind that has affected Haven since shortly after she turned 2 years old.

Haven is battling stage four neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer often found in the adrenal glands that typically affects children who are five years old or younger, according to Kidshealth.org.

She was diagnosed in April 2012, and it has been a battle ever since, one that has sprung Duchene into action to use his celebrity and the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Coors Field on Saturday to raise awareness and funds to fight pediatric cancer.

Duchene worked with CCM to create a special pair of skates that he wore in the Stadium Series game. The one-of-a-kind skates are being auctioned at auctions.nhl.com/avalanche through Friday.

The bidding was up to $2,580.22 at puck drop Saturday.

The Avalanche and NHL have pledged to match up to $5,000 of the winning bid. Duchene said he also will be donating his own money, either by matching the winning bid or donating a certain amount for each goal the Avalanche score for the rest of the season.

The money will go to CureSearch for Children's Cancer, a national non-profit foundation that raises funds to help find treatments and cures for childhood cancer patients.

"It's exactly the cause that I was looking for," Duchene said. "It's not for Haven, but it's in Haven's name and it's going to end up helping Haven because it helps everybody.

"This little girl, this cute little thing going through this terrible time, to make a difference or make it something bigger, I think that's so important."

Haven's battle has been a nightmare.

She has gone through various rounds of chemotherapy, including two years of taking an oral treatment that made her terribly sick. She had a nine-hour surgery to remove a tumor, spent five days isolated in a hospital because she was too radioactive to be around people, went through 20 rounds of radiation treatment that burned through the skin on her chest and back, experienced kidney failure and had a bone marrow transplant.

Haven still has two lesions on her spine that have cancer cells in them, so she is in a clinical trial through a doctor in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she has to go on Tuesday for scans.

She has already spent time with doctors in San Francisco, Colorado and New York.

Anderson credits her daughter for being the strongest person she has ever met. She said Haven still lives as normal a life as possible for her with school and swim lessons and playdates with friends.

The good news is the lesions on her spine have been stable for two and a half years, so doctors are hopeful Haven can continue to stay that way.

"If we can make it, she'll be on the current clinical trial for two years," Anderson said, "and after that we're hopeful that maybe we'll be done. If it stays away and doesn't do anything, then we're going to stop treatment not this coming August, but the following August. If we can continue to just be stable, we'll try to stay stable forever."

Haven's mom said she was blown away when Duchene approached her about his idea for the auction, one he said he came up with while driving home from practice earlier this season.

"When he decided to do the auction I was like, 'Are you serious?' "Anderson said."At first I was like, 'You're giving up those skates? What is the matter with you?' He's like, 'No, these are the special ones.' I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, you're amazing.' He's amazing."

Anderson said raising funds for pediatric cancer is not easy, because there in not much backing from pharmaceutical companies.

"It's all a grassroots effort," Anderson said. "A lot of times it's just us parents getting together and having walks. It's like the whole bake sale idea, like, 'Let's have a bake sale to cure cancer.' But for him to put himself out there and say this is a cause he truly believes in and wants to help, it's just so wonderful for us."

She also believes the awareness Duchene is bringing to pediatric cancer is just as important as the funds he is raising.

"Somebody who has influence, who has talent, who has all of these people who follow what he does and says, 'It's going to bring awareness,' and awareness brings better treatment and cures," Anderson said. "I can't even explain in words how wonderful it is and how thankful and grateful we are, because it's going to make a huge impact."

Duchene said his end goal is to join with Haven to present the final check to CureSearch, "so she can say that she was part of contributing so other kids don't have to go through this."

Duchene and Haven first met on the ice at a Hockey Fights Cancer event on Oct. 23, 2014. She was sitting in a chair and he started pushing her around the ice. Haven walked with Duchene in the Avalanche's fashion show on March 1, 2015.

Haven attends at least two or three Avalanche games every month, always wearing Duchene's jersey. Anderson sends Duchene pictures of Haven at the games and texts him after every game.

Haven and her family were in attendance Saturday at the Stadium Series game.

"She's petite, but other than how small she is you would never know that she's sick," Duchene said. "She acts so normal. She's feisty. She's got so much personality and that's what is so cool about her. It's been a special relationship.

"Hopefully we can raise a good amount and make it bigger than a hockey game."

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