Cam Atkinson wasn't afraid to admit that, going into his first-ever charity event, there were some unsettling unknowns.
Did they do enough advertising? Was there adequate publicity? Did the word get out? These things weren't important for him personally, but crucial to the success of the event which benefited a charitable cause very close to his heart.
All the pieces were in place: he had the support of the Marty Lyons Foundation, which aims to grant wishes to children who have terminal or life-threatening illnesses. The town of Greenwich, Conn. was fully behind him, and he had the backing of his family and friends from around the National Hockey League.
When 4 p.m. rolled around on August 19, Atkinson could breathe a little easier.
"Keep Hope Alive" was a huge success, and people around town were talking about it in the following days and congratulating the Atkinsons, who staged the fundraiser at Ellen Atkinson's (Cam's mother) local cashmere retailer, Magaschoni.
"I wasn't really expecting much, especially with this being my first time around (planning a fundraiser)," Atkinson told BlueJackets.com. "The money that came in was just going to be a bonus; it was a great starting point and we're all hoping we can double that amount for next year."
Despite tempered expectations, "Keep Hope Alive" generated some very encouraging returns. Atkinson said over 1,000 people stopped by Magashoni during the 1-4 p.m. window, and $16,000 was raised to go directly to the Marty Lyons Foundation.
"Everyone loved it," Atkinson said. "They loved the idea, the foundation, everything. To this day, I still see parents and people around town coming up to me and saying what a great event it was. That means a lot to me. Some said it looked like I'd been doing this for years, which was a nice compliment to get.
"The partnership with the foundation was great. They brought a couple of their kids over, and they were so upbeat and had great energy. It was so awesome to see them smiling and happy. We gave them a couple of jerseys and took a bunch of pictures. It was such an easy-going event and that's the way it should be."
Atkinson asked some of his friends from around professional hockey to join in and participate, and their help was greatly appreciated. Jonathan Quick, Chris Kreider, Matt Moulson, Martin St. Louis and several others made the trip to Greenwich to support the Marty Lyons Foundation and take part in what turned out to be a fun and uplifting afternoon for the children involved with the charity.
This year's event took place in late August, but there may be changes in store for the second installment. Atkinson said he's looking at a June or July date for next year's fundraiser, to account for families prepping for back-to-school activities or those who may have been out of town.
"My friends (from around the NHL) kept telling me how they're looking forward to this again next summer," Atkinson said. "They were so excited to be there helping out, and I can't thank them enough for that.
"We just want to make sure the foundation is able to grant two wishes for these kids. That's what this is all about. Hopefully this event will help them with that, and like I said, any time you can help out children who aren't going through the best of times...there's nothing better in the world."