Tessa Colliou's teacher messaged Patrick Maroon on Twitter hoping for an autographed picture to go with the award she'd earned for her community service work. Inspired by her efforts, Maroon orchestrated something better: A surprise game of mini golf.
"I didn't know what happened," Colliou said. "I thought it was a dream. [My friends] were so happy for me because they know how much I love him."
Everyone who knows Colliou, a 12-year-old from St. Albert, Alberta, knows what a huge fan of Maroon she is. After she was selected as the winner of her school's inspiration award, her sixth-grade teacher, Brett Arlinghaus, thought it might be cool to have something from Maroon when he presented her with the award at the end of the school year.
In Arlinghaus' message to Maroon, he described how Colliou organized a stuffed-animal drive for senior citizens that collected more than 100 toys that were used as welcome gifts through the Good Samaritan Society, where her mother Charlotte works, for new residents at nursing homes. After the school's custodian had a stroke, she bought and prepared the materials for her classmates to make a blanket for him to use while he was in the hospital.
Maroon, who started the season playing for the Edmonton Oilers before a midseason trade to the New Jersey Devils, responded and agreed to send a video message that Arlinghaus could play during the award presentation, but in subsequent messages, Maroon had come up with another idea. He wanted to meet up with Tessa when he was going to be in the area at the end of June and take her for a round of mini golf at the West Edmonton Mall.
"I was amazed when he responded," Arlinghaus said. "I wasn't expecting anything, to be honest. And when he got a hold of me, I thought, 'Oh this is great. She's going to get an autographed picture. This is going to be the best day ever for her.' But it just went to the next level."
Arlinghaus didn't tell Tessa's mother until two days before the scheduled meetup because he didn't want to get anyone's hopes up, and she was stunned at the plans.
"He said '[Maroon] wants to take her mini golfing,' and I couldn't believe it because I was under the impression it would be a quick meeting," Charlotte said. "He'd say congratulations and they'd be on their way and what a great experience that would be. Not a game of mini golf at the West Edmonton Mall. So that was above and beyond our expectations or anything we would've thought."
She then had the unenviable task of keeping the secret from her daughter for two days, all the way up to the last moment when Tessa felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around for the shock of her life.
"I was starstruck," Tessa said. "I couldn't believe it. I was getting all dizzy and I thought I was going to faint."
"Her face went completely pale," Charlotte said. "Then she got red and splotchy and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, she's going to pass out,' but she held it together. She did good."
Tessa, who plays ringette, runs track and is on the school wrestling team, didn't have much of a golf game that day under the circumstances, but she did get a chance to tell Maroon how much she loved him while she spent some quality time with her favorite hockey player.
Maroon also presented her with her school award before their meeting ended.
"It was awesome," Tessa said. "I'm never going to forget it."