Two Columbus area high schools set aside their rivalry in order to honor a former teammate of hockey players on both sides of the ice.
Dublin Coffman and Dublin Jerome used their rivalry night as a chance to remember Daron Richardson, the daughter of former Columbus Blue Jackets player Luke Richardson
, in order to raise money and awareness for the Do It For Daron Foundation
(DIFD) on Jan. 24. The game featured a ceremonial puck drop with Luke Richardson's former teammate, Jody Shelley
, and current Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll
, as well as a jersey auction that raised over $2,000 for the Foundation.
Fans of both high schools, community members and Blue Jackets wore purple, the official color of the DIFD Foundation, in support and awareness of suicide prevention and depression. Instead of picking sides in the rivalry, the crowd was united in support of a cause much bigger than the game played on the ice.
"When I came out for warm-ups and I saw all these people here wearing purple and here in support, I couldn't believe it," said Mark Heneman, Coffman assistant captain. "Daron would be happy to see us doing this and it means a lot to us to raise awareness for the issues she dealt with."
Daron and her family lived in Dublin while Luke was a defenseman (and one-time captain) of the Blue Jackets. The Richardsons quickly became part of the local community, and Daron joined the AAA Blue Jackets youth hockey program. She played with several of the hockey players on both the Dublin Jerome and Dublin Coffman high school hockey teams, who were also her own teammates with the AAA Blue Jackets.
Daron committed suicide in November 2010, at age 14. Her close friends and family started the DIFD Foundation to honor her memory and to raise awareness about suicide prevention and youth depression--hoping that their message would inspire people affected and saving their lives rather than keeping it to themselves and ending their lives.
For Shelley, who knew Luke Richardson and his family when they were Blue Jackets teammates, the DIFD Foundation is something that hits close to home and sends a message that deserves to be heard.
"Most of the hot-button issues that are talked about with families and youth are alcohol and drugs," said Shelley. "But mental health is real and something that happens in many households. An event like this is great because it raises awareness for this issue and for there to be this many people here in support of the Richardsons and wearing purple shows that this issue is being recognized."
In a game where the final score usually means the most to the people involved, it was the least important thing on the minds of Heneman and his teammates. The most important message sent on the ice was that their teammate Daron would not soon be forgotten.
"Daron was overall a happy person who always had a smile on her face and I loved having that around the rink," said Heneman. "Playing this game in her honor, sending this message and doing this for her and her family is awesome and means so much."
Shelley agreed that all the attention the event received from the players and community was the biggest part of the event and hopes that the mission of the DIFD Foundation will continue to spead.
"This game shows that the message is spreading and that it is important to many people because of all the support here," Shelley said as he addressed the crowd prior to the game. "It's important for young people to know: you are not alone. If you're having a tough time, talk to someone. We're here for you."