With every save that Jacob Ingham makes this season, he is helping to save lives. The LA Kings goaltending prospect is now in the second year of his "Jake Saves" campaign.
Following a family tragedy in the summer of 2018, Ingham wanted to make a difference and raise awareness and funds for blood donation. "All of it started because my grandparents got into a really severe car accident," he recounted. "My granny needed tons of blood transfusions to pull through."
It was a lot for the young netminder to process, especially with him heading off to Kings camp for the first time and getting ready to return to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). But after his grandparents recuperated and were on the mend, Ingham and his family reflected and decided to give back and help others who might find themselves in similar situations.
Hockey Gives Blood seemed to be the perfect fit. Formed in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy in 2018, Hockey Gives Blood set out to educate and raise awareness within the hockey community about the importance of giving blood by partnering with Canadian Blood Services.
Once Ingham connected with the group, he and his family launched the Jakes Save campaign for his 2018-19 season while he was playing with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. Through the first 50 games of the season, Ingham and his family donated $4 for every save he made. During that period, Ingham made 1,393 saves and he and his family were able to make a $5,572 donation to Canadian Blood Services.
After Ingham, who was drafted 175th overall by the Kings in 2018, was traded to the Kitchener Rangers the following year, he knew wanted to continue the campaign.
"Coming to Kitchener, I wanted to do the exact same thing, so this year I am donating $5 for every save and, on top of that, the Kitchener Rangers have matched it," Ingham noted. "We're at $10 a save right now for every single save of the year."
With the support from his new team, Ingham had the opportunity to make an even bigger impact this season. One of the ways he has been able to bring new awareness to the cause has been by changing his jersey number.
"I couldn't wear no. 1 in Kitchener because it's been retired for the fans, so my sister came up with the idea for 68," Ingham explained. "Six is like a 'G' for give and the eight is like a 'B' for blood. So it kind of says give blood."
Ingham believes that a significant reason why many people do not donate blood is because they have simply never been asked. "My jersey is now like an asking point for people," he added.
Ingham says the response so far in Kitchener has been amazing. "I have had a lot of people DM me on Twitter or Instagram and say things like 'I just wanted to let you know that I'm a 200 blood donator,' so it's pretty incredible hear things like that or when they tell me they donated for the first time because of the campaign," he said. "I know a lot of the fans, when I get to talk with them, bring it up right way. They want to learn more and find ways they can help."
Ingham has now played in 25 games and made 832 saves this season, including a 51-save performance against the Owen Sound Attack on December 7th. Picking up the victory is the top priority, but Ingham gets pretty enthusiastic when there's that kind of money on the board.
"It's pretty fun just to have that opportunity to play in a game like that when you get that many shots," he affirmed. "51 saves is more than halfway to $1,000, so it's pretty awesome to see a number like that get thrown up."
With the Rangers matching Ingham and his family's contributions, he has already exceeded last year's donation. But Ingham's generosity also speaks to his level of play. He has only allowed 64 goals against this season and sports a sterling .929 save percentage, the second best in the league.
If he continues stopping pucks at this rate, he will not only finish as one of the OHL's top goaltenders, he will also be able to make a significant donation to Canadian Blood Services.
While Ingham's grandparents have made a full recovery, the importance of his initiative was punctuated recently when fellow OHL goaltender, Tucker Tynan of the Niagara IceDogs, suffered a life-threatening injury in a game against the London Knights when a skate lacerated his right thigh. As Tynan laid on the ice, blood pooled out from beneath his goalie pads.
The quick actions from the incredible medical staff on both teams ultimately saved his life, but Ingham believes the situation was a grisly reminder of why it's so important to give blood. "You feel pretty helpless watching that video, but there is a way to help him. It's through blood donations," Ingham stated emphatically.
"It's really that important. Until there's an accident or someone needs blood donations or blood transfusions in your immediate family or friends, it's something you don't really think about that often. I think just spreading the word and having people realize that just one blood donation can help save someone is so important."
With the OHL season more than half over, every save Ingham makes counts. Each stop enhances the donation that will assist with messaging, staffing, and the purchase of medical equipment, but it's about more than just the funding.
Every time Ingham steps out onto the ice, he and his jersey highlight why it is so important to donate blood. Ingham's connection to the cause was born of out his own personal experience, but his selflessness is a poignant reminder of how hockey players can make a difference. Even something as simple as stopping a puck can make an impact and, in some cases, save a life.
Header image photo credit to Kevin Sousa.