Donna Kara has been battling cancer on and off for nearly four years after initially being diagnosed in May 2012. A week after receiving her latest diagnosis, the New Jersey Devils honored her fight as the team’s Hero of the Game on Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center on October 27.
Kara, an executive administrative assistant, was 46 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in May 2012, launching her and her family into her multi-year battle with the disease. Following surgery and remission, the cancer came back in her ovaries. After more surgery, it came back again, this time within her abdomen.
In late 2014, Kara underwent an extensive, eight-hour surgery to remove all the cancerous cells and hopefully end the saga there. On October 20, Kara, now 50, got the news she was hoping to never receive again; the cancer had returned.
“I don’t know what the next process is yet,” Kara said, three and a half years into the battle. Surrounded by friends at family at the game, Kara said it was them that give her the strength to keep up the fight. Joined by her husband and biggest supporter, Tom Kara, and her sons, Brandon and Ryan Micewicz, 23 and 16 respectively, Kara and her family enjoyed one of their favorite pastimes as Devils fans.
Kara attended her first Devils game in 1986 at the then-Brendan Byrne Arena, sitting in glass seats on a date with her sons’ father. Fast to fandom, Kara passed on her passion for New Jersey’s team to her sons. While the legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur ranks at the top of her favorite players to skate in a Devils sweater, her greatest memory of the team, she said, was attending a signing event with her son, Brandon, where former Devil Zach Parise signed a shirt for the boy.
“It’s a great honor, being here tonight,” Kara said, adding that she always tries to be open and welcoming within her community, the township of Woodbridge, and was thankful for the chance to be recognized.
“It means everything,” said Brandon, the eldest of the Micewicz brothers, who has been a Devils season ticket member for five years.
Beyond celebrating Kara and her battle with cancer, the New Jersey Devils spent the entire night taking part in the NHL’s annual initiative, Hockey Fights Cancer. As fans entered the arena, PNC and Lafayette Towers were bathed in lavender light, the color of HFC, and attendees received lavender ribbons to wear throughout the night.
Attendees could also buy signed pucks through a mystery puck sale, with the proceeds going to the cause. Seven pucks were signed in gold, and the lucky winners received prizes ranging from signed jerseys to the chance to meet the player who signed their puck.
Around the arena, fans filled out cards designating who they fight for, singed a giant card on the concourse, which will be donated to a local hospital, and also purchased this year’s commemorative shirt.
Just before the game got underway, captain Andy Greene faced off against Columbus captain Nick Foligno in a ceremonial puck drop, featuring 7-year-old Quinn Knapp and 17-year-old Alex Walsh. Knapp was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2013, and is scheduled to finish treatment in December 2016. Walsh, whose mother passed away last year from colon cancer, reached out to the Devils to see how he could help raise awareness for cancer research. Both fans were surprised with a special meet-and-greet with Cory Schneider and Adam Henrique before the game.
Over $30,000 was raised for cancer research and cancer care programming at local hospitals, with more expected from auctioned off autographed player warm-up jerseys. The lavender jerseys can be bid on at www.NewJerseyDevils.com/HFC.