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Players, coaches honored to support Foundation's mission

by Alison Lukan / Columbus Blue Jackets

This week’s inaugural CannonBall event received rave reviews, including several from the Blue Jackets locker room.

All 26 players were among the 700 people in attendance as Nationwide Arena was transformed into a modern American bandstand themed event, one focused on sharing the message of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation’s mission: supporting youth health and wellness.

“For what the Foundation wanted to accomplish and make everyone aware of everything it does, in a fun environment with good food, it assembled really well,” defenseman Dalton Prout told BlueJackets.com.

Prout, who took a spin on the dance floor after a young woman with spina bifida asked him for a dance, said the event really put the spotlight on the Foundation as a community partner by showcasing stories about the impact made over the past year.

One of those stories featured pediatric cancer hero Pete Lombardi, who was escorted onto the stage by his favorite hockey player, Brandon Dubinsky. Pete immediately broke into dance, and that opportunity to show a bit more about Lombardi and his personality was a highlight of the night for Dubinsky.

“It was a lot of fun,” Dubinsky said. "Pete’s a riot. He’s so full of life, so full of energy. It was infectious to be around that kind of attitude.”

Dubinsky said he didn’t just enjoy his time with Pete; the new format to the Foundation’s annual fundraiser made the night a big success in his eyes.

The CannonBall told a bold turn from a more traditional sit-down event, and instead invited guests to roam among food and drink stations, enjoy entertainment and, as Dubinsky said, really turn the night into a “celebration.”

“People may feel we are obligated to go, or we had to go because it’s being a part of the team, but we had a blast,” Dubinsky said. “It was one of those things where we enjoyed being there, we wanted to be there, and it was a lot of fun.”

While Prout and Dubinsky had attended the Foundation’s annual event in the past, this year was the first for Scott Hartnell.

Hartnell helped share the story of Akeem Adesiji, who developed a love of hockey through the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, a program supported by the Foundation. Adesiji not only plays, but he now volunteers at clinics and has taken up coaching, as well. Last summer, Adesiji also had the opportunity to attend Minnesota Hockey Camp thanks to Hartnell’s foundation, #HartnellDown.

PHOTO GALLERY: The best images from a great night at The CannonBall

That collaboration between the Blue Jackets Foundation and Hartnell’s own work for the community was just another reason to celebrate at the CannonBall.

“The whole crew that works for the (Blue Jackets) Foundation is great,” Hartnell said. “They helped me to make an impact in the community, to make it easy for me to reach out and get some kids to go to our camps that first summer before I even played one game.

"We’re looking forward to having over 43 kids come out this summer, obviously the Foundation is a big part of that.”

In addition to the program, Hartnell called the evening “one of the funnest that he’s been to.” Hartnell and his teammates were able to mingle among the crowd and visit with fans and sponsors, something Dubinsky echoed as a huge positive.

“No one wanted to leave,” Dubinsky said emphatically.

And although this year’s event (which raised over $400,000) is over, its purpose is something the Blue Jackets hope lingers for months to come.

“I thought the event was fantastic,” said head coach John Tortorella. “One of the biggest things that the event did was put out more knowledge about what’s really going on with the Foundation. There’s so many different outreaches in different areas, it’s doing such a fantastic job, and I think it needs to be noticed more.”

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