ST. LOUIS - It's often a lot easier to find someone that has been impacted by cancer than to find someone who hasn't.
Take the St. Louis Blues for example.
Alexander Steen's former agent passed away after a battle with cancer several years ago. Blues President and CEO Chris Zimmerman lost his college roommate after he was diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age, leaving behind a young family, and Blues Chairman Tom Stillman lost his mother to pancreatic cancer many years ago.
And those are only a few examples.
Last week, Steen, Zimmerman, Stillman, Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk and their better halves spent an evening serving dinner at Hope Lodge, which is operated by the American Cancer Society and provides free housing to patients living in St. Louis or visiting for cancer treatment.
Hope Lodge can house up to 80 patients at a time and typically has between 50-80 people staying there every day.
"The conversations, we've been joking around quite a bit in here today," Steen said. "Whatever we can do to take their minds off what they're going through, and have a few peaceful and fun moments with us, that's what we're here for."
"The interesting thing about getting a chance to help support a place like Hope Lodge is the gift is as much to us," Zimmerman said. "These are simple things, and our ability as a club to make a simple contribution really means a lot."
Sue Vaughan is one of the patients at Hope Lodge. In June, she was diagnosed with leukemia and started treatment almost immediately. On Oct. 4, she had a bone marrow transplant, which her body could still reject. If it does, she'll need medical attention within an hour, so Hope Lodge provides her with a place to stay near the hospital in case of a life-threatening emergency.
"I was pretty tired and wore out this morning," Vaughan said. "But as (this dinner with the Blues) got closer, I got more and more excited. People come here and offer meals and make you feel like they really care about you and they're interested in your well-being.
"I have a grandson who watches hockey games and I have a granddaughter into all sports," Vaughan added. "I got some autographs for her and my son-in-law. Never, ever in my life did I think I would get dinner served by a Blues hockey player."
The Hope Lodge dinner is just the beginning. The Blues will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Sunday, Nov. 6 when the club meets the Colorado Avalanche at Scottrade Center. The Blues have teamed up with UMB Bank, Express Scripts and Siteman Cancer Center to present the night, which will feature players wearing special jerseys during pregame warm-ups. The jerseys will be autographed and auctioned online, while fans can also help raise money for charitable organizations that fight cancer through an in-game silent auction and through the sales of autographed pucks outside Section 114.
Fans will also be able to show their support for friends and family members currently fighting cancer by completing an "I Fight For…" card at the game.
"As an employer, it's hard to find people among your employee group that hasn't been impacted by cancer," said Tom Chulick, the Chairman and CEO of UMB Bank. "This makes a lot of sense to partner with a great organization in the St. Louis Blues. It really makes a difference. We're happy to be here (at Hope Lodge) and be part of this."
"It just says a lot about those people and their spouses and the culture of the organization," Stillman said of the team's support at Hope Lodge. "That's part of our DNA. The community gives a lot to us, and it's our duty to give that support back. When you see a hockey player and his wife coming out to do this, it's because they signed up, they wanted to do this. We have a lot of very high character guys and these are some good examples."