Jessica Redfield was well on her way to fulfilling her dream as a sports broadcaster.
Then, tragedy struck.
Redfield (who was born Jessica Ghawi) was one of 12 people who died last month in the movie theater shooting incident in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo.
At the time of her death, Redfield was covering the Colorado Avalanche for an online blog and doing some television work as well. She was 24 years old.
Her family decided to create a foundation in her name to provide scholarship money to prospective female sports journalists.
Many people and organizations from the hockey and sports media communities contributed to this foundation, most notably, the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings donated $10,000.
The Flyers though, decided to take it a step farther.
In honor of Redfield, the Flyers created an internship that will provide a female college student the opportunity to gain experience in the world of digital media surrounding an NHL team.
* To make a donation to the Redfield Foundation
* To those who wish to apply for the Internship
“Jessica’s family created a scholarship fund to help other aspiring sports journalists to pursue their career,” said Flyers’ President Peter Luukko. “We felt the best way to assist with this great cause was to offer an internship of our own to help these prospective recipients gain the real world experience of covering a professional sports team. The goal of the fund is to build futures in her name. It is our intention to assist with that in this manner.”
The initial thought was to simply send condolences on behalf of the team, but the more people at the Flyers started talking about it, the bigger the idea became.
“This actually started out with us wanting to send something to Jessica’s memorial service,’’ said Brian Smith, Flyers manager of broadcast and media services. “We asked (Flyers scout) Patrick Burke about it, and he’s the one who first told us the family was starting a foundation to keep Jessica’s legacy alive.
“We talked about it a little bit and thought we might be able to help with an internship like this. We’re hoping it will help someone like Jessica get a good start on a career.”
The news of the creation of this internship was a comforting surprise to Redfield’s family.
“When people are doing something as wonderful as the Flyers are doing by creating an internship in Jessica’s name, it’s an incredible honor to me,” Redfield’s mother Sandy Phillips said from her home in San Antonio, Texas. “It caught me completely off guard. When I got the email that this was happening. I was like, “Are you kidding me?’
What made it even more special is that Phillips, who grew up in a Los Angeles suburb as a fan of the Kings, hadn’t been to a hockey game in quite a while after moving to San Antonio in the 1980s.
However, she was always a fan of the sport. So last year, with her daughter working in Denver covering hockey, Phillips was on a business trip in Philadelphia and decided to go to a hockey game.
“A couple of other people at the convention and I decided to try to go to a game, and we were able to get tickets to see the Flyers at the [Wells Fargo Center]. I had a great time and the whole time I was texting Jessica from the game.
“I couldn’t believe how much she knew about the Flyers. She was sending me her opinions about the players and their abilities and telling me who to watch for and who was good and who wasn’t. It was one of those proud mama moments.”
Redfield had moved to Colorado from Texas prior to last season and was gaining a substantial following on social media, where she was very active.
“She was such a genuine person and a great kid,” said Adrian Dater, the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for the Denver Post who was friendly with Redfield. “She was a kid from Texas who just arrived on the scene in Denver who loved the game of hockey. She was super ambitious and she had a crazy drive to make her way into the hockey media world.
“She took everyone by storm and got to know everyone in the hockey community and was well on her way to do something good here. There was almost nothing she wouldn't do to make it.”
Which is exactly the kind of person the Flyers are looking for to fill the Internship.
“She was a great networker,” Phillips said. “One of the things I loved about her is that she wasn’t about ‘who can help me,’ but ‘what can I learn from them?’ She was awesome. I’m glad this intern will have such a wonderful experience.”
Redfield’s love of hockey came from out of the blue.
She spent most of her formative years as a dancer – concentrating in ballet and jazz dancing – and her mother thought she was going to end up working in the theatre in some capacity.
“We were not a sports family in any capacity,” Phillips said. “To prove that point, after this tragedy happened we got so many phone calls. One afternoon my phone rang and it was [Denver Broncos quarterback] Peyton Manning. After he hung up I turned to my husband and said, ‘Do you know who that was? It was Peyton Manning.’ My husband said, “Who’s Peyton Manning?”
But Jessica had a boyfriend who was into sports and took her to a hockey game.
“Just like that, she was hooked,” Phillips said. “It was like that one game hit a main nerve in her. She wanted to know anything and everything there was to know about the sport and it became her passion.”
Always an excellent writer, once she became fluent in the sport of hockey, her natural wit and sarcasm blended well and her unique style of sports writing took a life of it’s own.
“Everyone thinks their children are special," Phillips said. “I certainly thought mine was too, but to hear stories coming out of the woodwork from so many people who felt the same way as I did… to have that validated… how honored am I? I’m still mourning the loss of my daughter but through this tragedy I’ve been given a huge gift. And the gift keeps on giving thanks to the Flyers. I would be honored to meet the person who receives this internship somehow, so I can let them know personally just how much this means to me and to Jessica’s legacy.”