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"Hockey Talks" aims to inspire conversation and awareness about mental health

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Luke Richardson and his wife Stephanie experienced the most devastating of losses – the loss of their 14-year-old daughter, Daron.

Daron committed suicide on Nov. 13, 2010 when Richardson, a former captain of the Blue Jackets and now head coach of the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators, was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators. Through their unimaginable pain and grief came the desire and will to fight for other teens, and make a difference in the lives of those affected by an issue that doesn’t get enough attention.

The Richardsons founded “Do It For Daron” along with the Senators, the Senators Foundation and the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health. DIFD is a program geared toward raising money and awareness for teenage mental health, and it has since found its way across North America with a wave of momentum.

The message is simple: to raise awareness and inspire conversation about mental health. The internalization of problems can be the start of a troublesome trend, and DIFD’s mission is to get people talking and be open to sharing what’s going on in their lives in times of pain.

Jody Shelley, Blue Jackets TV analyst, team ambassador, and most importantly, a friend and former teammate of Richardson in Columbus, is bringing the “hockey talks” initiative to Columbus.

Jody Shelley and Jared Boll visit with Daron's friends and teammates following last year's Do It For Daron game at the Dublin Chiller.

On Friday, Nov. 28, Shelley and the newly-formed Blue Jackets Alumni Association are participating in a “Do It For Daron” benefit hockey game at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. The game, which begins at 3 p.m., will feature seven Blue Jackets alumni and 13 of Daron’s former teammates from the Dublin area, where the Richardsons called home.

“This is a really special event, but more importantly, it’s an important message we’re trying to spread,” Shelley told BlueJackets.com. “What Luke and Stephanie went through is something no parent should have to experience and that’s what they’ve dedicated a large part of their lives to. Having this benefit game here in Columbus with her friends, former teammates and some of our alumni is a great way for everyone to come together and raise awareness for a really important issue.”

Mental health is the signature cause of the Blue Jackets Alumni Association and one that the hockey world has rallied around.

“No one should feel as if they’re alone,” Shelley said. “We’re here to talk. We’re here to listen. That’s the message we want to spread. Talk, ask for help, and know that that’s okay. There are plenty of people who want to listen.”

Blue Jackets alumni Martin Spanhel, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Chris Clark, Andrew Cassels, Brett Harkins and Fredrik Modin – most of whom call the Columbus area home – will participate in the game and be available for a reception in the Founders Club at Nationwide Arena afterward.

The jerseys worn by the Blue Jackets alumni in the game will be part of a silent auction, as well, with proceeds going to Do It For Daron and central Ohio mental health initiatives. Fans can bid on the jerseys during Friday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena.

Fans can bid not only on the special DIFD game jerseys worn by the alumni, but also on VIP experiences including a meet-and-greet with Nick Foligno. There is also a $200 VIP package available that includes a post-DIFD game reception with the Blue Jackets alumni as well as a ticket to the game against the Canucks.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the reception, visit bluejackets.com/hockeytalks.

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