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Schwartz surprises fan with new gear

Blues team up with ManAdvantage to create lifelong memory

by Dan O'Neill / St. Louis Blues

Kathryn's big day

Kathryn skates with Jaden Schwartz

Local nine-year-old Kathryn Lankau receives a special present from Blues forward Jaden Schwartz

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Meet Kathryn Lankau.

She's a beautiful nine-year-old girl in an abnormal situation. Four years ago, Kathryn's father, Russell, fell ill with flu-like symptoms. For nearly a week, he suffered through vomiting, chills and pain before it became too much to handle.

At 4 a.m. on November 11, 2012, Kathryn's older sister rushed Russell to the hospital for emergency attention. A short time later, his heart stopped. For 45 minutes, the hospital frantically attempted to resuscitate him without success.

Russell passed away due to septic shock. He was 40 years old.

On Friday, the Blues teamed up with ManAdvantage to grant Kathryn a day she will never forget. An ardent Blues fan and lover of the sport - just like her dad - Kathryn is not only burdened by the emotional loss of her father but by the financial void his passing left behind, thus making barriers to participate in her beloved sport even more substantial.

Until now.

Following the Blues' second training camp session, Jaden Schwartz visited Kathryn and presented her with a brand new set of Little Blues equipment compliments of Total Hockey, while ManAdvantage enrolled her in her first learn-to-play league.

"She's a sweetheart and a cutie, and she's a really good skater," Schwartz said. "She seemed pretty excited and it's easy for me to help her out. Hopefully she can play hockey for a long time. It looks like she's going to be a good player."

"This is undescribable. I feel very blessed," said Kathryn's mother, Toni. "Her dad was a Blues fan his whole life, and he passed that on to all of our kids. Kathryn didn't get to go to a game with him, but I've taken her to several games since he's been gone, and she gets more and more excited every time she goes."

For ManAdvantage, it is their mission to provide the opportunity for children affected by unthinkable loss to relieve their burden through the sport of hockey. The organization works to make sure that no child has to forego the opportunity to play hockey due to misfortune that results from the death or disability of a parent. On Friday, not only did they achieved that goal, but they paved the way for Kathryn to enjoy moments of relief and positive memories for years to come.

"This was awesome - a total surprise," Toni said. "Her dad would be smiling and crying (to see this) and would just think it was awesome, especially that his kids are taking the same interest in hockey and becoming as big of Blues fans as he was."

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