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For MacKenzie, pediatric cancer cause is close to home

by Kristyn Repke / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, OHIO --- The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Blue Jackets Foundation are proud to join the NHL and NHLPA for hockey’s most important fight, the fight against cancer. With help from our partners at OhioHealth, The Blue Jackets will raise money and create awareness for a disease that touches the lives of so many this Friday, Oct. 25 as the Blue Jackets host the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nationwide Arena.

Because cancer has impacted so many, over the coming days we will highlight players and staff within the organization and their personal fight for the cause.

The moment Derek MacKenzie knew he wanted to be involved with pediatric cancer was the first time he stepped into Nationwide Children's Hospital on a visit with the Blue Jackets.

"As soon as I went there, I knew it was a special place," said MacKenzie. "The work they do with the kids there is incredible and I wanted to learn more and contribute."

The Blue Jackets Foundation and the Blue Jackets team organize several trips to visit cancer patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital. They send a small group of players to multiple rooms so they can spend time with the patients and their families, getting to know them, playing games and reading stories. MacKenzie attends nearly every visit to the hospital, since the cause is so close to home for him.

"When I leave the hospital after visiting with some of the kids going through treatment, it's nice for me to go home and hug my kids and be thankful that they're healthy," said MacKenzie. "I feel fortunate that up to this point in my kids' lives, they haven't had to face the kind of adversity that those kids face every day."

Through the years that he has been part of the organization and over the course of multiple hospital visits, MacKenzie has taken his experiences and knowledge back to his hometown of Sudbury, Ontario in order to help out his local hospitals.

"The hospital back home is smaller and doesn't have the access to some of the things that the kids do here in Columbus, so I've worked hard to raise money and awareness in order to give those kids back home a better opportunity--not only through medical treatments, but also through their quality of life," said MacKenzie. "If there's something I can do to help them get through their treatments easier and make their hospital stay easier, I want to do it."

MacKenzie said that seeing how positive the kids remain and how they still take the time to be kids, even through life-threatening cancer, has impacted his outlook on life, and he is excited for Friday's Hockey Fights Cancer Night because the team will honor several cancer patients throughout the game.

"What these kids go through is second to none," said MacKenzie. "Sometimes as hockey players, we think that what we go through, getting banged up or going through a hard practice is tough. But what these kids go through on a daily basis is the toughest thing I've ever seen.

"These kids deserve to be honored. Any time we as an organization or as people can make their day better and more exciting, we're going to do our best to make that happen."
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