J.T. Miller is having himself a career year. The 26-year-old forward is tied for his career-high in goals at 22 and has set a new career-high in points with 57.
Everything has been going Miller's way this season and that continued this past Friday night at the Canucks 20th annual Dice & Ice Gala, at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver. The sold-out event, which raised $743,000 for the Canucks for Kids Fund supporting children's health and wellness, foster the development of grassroots hockey, and facilitate and encourage education, featured a unique game of Heads & Tails.
This special game of Heads & Tails requires a $100 buy-in, with 200 entries available and an incredible 18K rose gold diamond pendant and necklace (donated by Britton Diamonds), valued at $10,192, as the grand prize. In this simple game of chance, participants are asked to put their hands behind their heads, or on their butts (tails), in anticipation of what the host's coin-flip will be. Get it wrong and you're out. Get it right and you remain in the game; last person with the correct guess wins!
As luck would have it, Tyler Graovac and Miller were the final two, with Miller going tails for the win. As soon as he was handed the necklace, Miller knew exactly what he was going to do with it.
Earlier in the evening, Annalisa Whittle spoke on behalf of the incredible impact BC Children's Hospital, and events like Dice & Ice, had on saving her seven-year-old daughter Makena's life.
Makena, a patient of BC Children's Hospital and Sunny Hill Health Centre since 2014, received an epilepsy diagnosis at about 18-months-old. At two-years-old she suffered from debilitating epilepsy, enduring up to 100 seizures a day at one point, landing her into an induced coma.
"It was the worst feeling as a parent being so helpless and not able to ease her pain," said Annalisa, holding Makena's hand as she spoke.
An emergency brain surgery at BC Children's Hospital saved Makena's life and gave her the relief she needed to recover and gain some strength, although she continued having multiple hand twitching seizures and at least one convulsive seizure every time she slept. Over a year later Makena endured another operation, this time leaving her seizure free, but with paralysis.
At four-and-a-half-years-old, Makena underwent daily intensive rehabilitation therapy sessions relearning how to walk and speak clearly. "She persevered through the many obstacles that were thrown at her for three years," said Annalisa. "She may have entered their doors in a stroller, but she walked out with pride."
There wasn't a dry-eye at the Gala as Annalisa and Makena walked off the stage to a standing ovation. J.T. Miller and his wife Natalie were certainly moved, and when Miller returned to his table with a sparkly 18K rose gold diamond pendant necklace a short while later, the couple agreed it should go to Makena.
"Her story really hit home for my wife and I because we have two young daughters," explained Miller. "Natalie and I were already talking about what we were going to do to give back during the event, so I knew right away I was going to give the necklace to Makena."
As soon as Miller left the stage, he sought out Makena and Annalisa, but they had already left - it was way past Makena's bed time. Instead, Miller invited them to attend the Canucks game a few days later, with mom and daughter meeting the Millers post-game in the Canucks locker room.
After praising Makena for her strength and bravery, and complimenting Annalisa on her emotional speech at Dice & Ice, Miller, two-year-old daughter Scottlyn in his arms, and wife Natalie, presented the pendant and necklace to Makena. "You'll look better in this necklace than I will," smiled Miller.
Makena put the necklace on immediately and is likely still wearing it right now. That's a lot of bling bling for a seven-year-old, but nobody deserves it more than Makena.
"She's a special little girl and a real inspiration," said Miller. "It's nice to see her smiling like that."