MONTREAL - The battle against COVID-19 occupies much of our thinking right now, but Nick Suzuki is stressing the importance of a fight on another front.
The Canadiens centerman was recently nominated by Detroit Red Wings prospect, Joe Veleno, to participate in the CellyForward Challenge - and he graciously accepted Veleno's nomination.
The Red Wings' hopeful created the initiative to shine a light on mental health during the coronavirus crisis and encourage people to donate to non-profit organizations that support mental health.
"Our world is in the midst of something surreal that we have never seen before. The coronavirus has created so much tragedy and suffering in our world today," said Veleno, during a short video on the CellyForward Challenge Instagram page. "Sadly, though, even once there's a vaccine and the physical virus is gone, the battle for mental health will still be in full force as people face the new reality of life."
Suzuki and Veleno recognize the incredible physical toll of COVID-19, but are hoping to open the public's eyes to the mental health issues related to the isolation and confinement associated with eradicating the disease. People all over the world are struggling without a shoulder to lean on.
"Acknowledging the mental health and psychological effects of the pandemic is crucial to the recovery of our world. We have to be ready to help those who desperately need comfort," said the former first-round selection of the Red Wings (30th overall) in 2018. "We, as a community, need to prepare ourselves to deal with depression, anger, tears, and guilt with open arms and a sympathetic understanding of how people's lives have changed."
Athletes and other public figures who've accepted the CellyForward Challenge are offering up prizes to fans who participate in an Instagram contest. While the contest is free, donations are strongly encouraged and can be made online.
For his part, Suzuki will be sending a game-used stick to a lucky winner.
The athletes involved in the CellyForward Challenge also have to share a celebration video. The content reminds fans that better days are ahead.
"A "celly" is short for "celebration" and is used to describe an athlete's celebration after scoring a goal. However, it's more than that. It's a moment of euphoric intensity, infused with joy and excitement as a result of succeeding in a long and hard-fought battle with every ounce of strength that you have," explained Veleno, who registered 11 goals and 23 points in 54 games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this season. "Right now, we are in the first period of our battle. We have a long way to go until we defeat the virus, but we will keep fighting and moving forward towards a better tomorrow until the final buzzer when we will be able to "celly" together as we can declare complete victory after recovering from the damage caused by COVID-19."
To learn more about the CellyForward Challenge, click here.
To donate to a mental health organization, click here.
Suzuki continues his involvement
This isn't the first time that the Canadiens' rookie has associated himself with a mental health initiative. After squaring off against Garrett McFadden for three years in the OHL ranks, Suzuki joined forces with the former Guelph Storm defenseman.
In January, Suzuki became an ambassador for the mental health initiative, McFadden's Movement, which was founded by McFadden.
Suzuki always sports a black bracelet to support the cause.
McFadden, who played four games with the Laval Rocket during the 2017-18 season, created the movement in September 2016 after losing a childhood friend to suicide when they were in Grade 9.
McFadden's Movement is a non-profit organization that helps athletes with mental health issues.
To learn more about McFadden's Movement, click here.