While ice level might be on the cooler side of things, this past Saturday at Rexall Place, the opportunity to take in an Oilers practice was warming plenty of hearts. The Oilers had some special visitors and their families from the Neurosurgery Kids Fund from The Stollery Children’s Hospital on-hand for morning skate before the Battle of Alberta. The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) was hosting a dozen ‘Neuro kids’ granting them the exclusive practice experience at Rexall Place.
The Neurosurgery Kids Fund (NKF) is made up of various professionals who are dedicated to serving babies, children and adolescents with neurosurgical conditions. The program ensures that pediatric neurosurgical patients and families from The Stollery are given resources and support as they navigate their medical journey with a number of initiatives in place to help improve the quality of life of those affected. These efforts are right up the Oilers Foundation’s alley, as youth health and wellness is a top priority for its efforts in the community.
“These kids have either finished their major procedures with brain or spinal cord surgeries and are on their way to recovery or they are still receiving treatment so it’s incredible how much this visit to Rexall Place will lift their spirits,” said Nicki Wohlad, Communications Coordinator, The Stollery Children’s Hospital. “Quite simply, these kids and their families are absolutely amazing. They’re smiling, having fun, they can’t sit still and it’s making a big difference.”
It certainly was a fun morning with on-ice action and off-ice smiles as the children were able to spend time with Oilers players, Andrew Ference and Ryan Smyth following the team’s skate. For eight-year-old Skyler, a proud member of the Edmonton Blades sledge hockey team, meeting his hockey heroes was extra special.
“Watching the Oilers practice was really special. Down at ice-level you could see the players up-close and then it got even more awesome when I got to meet Ference. I had so many questions but, the first thing I asked him was what it was like to be the team captain,” said Skyler Jepson, a NKF patient at The Stollery. “It was so cool to talk about hockey with an actual Oilers player.”
While Skyler and fellow patients had plenty of time for autographs and photos, the biggest takeaway for Skyler was talking shop with the Oilers captain himself. The two chatted about strategy, the love of the game and mutually agreed on having fun, so much in fact that Skyler had this to say to #21.
“Have fun, play hard, do well and have fun – have fun twice.”
The whole experience was especially heartwarming for Skyler’s Mom, Jennifer Jepson who shared that she hadn’t seen Skyler this excited since his first time at summer camp last summer, another opportunity afforded to them from the NKF.
“Not many people will understand how important this was for Skyler today. Since his spine surgery two years ago, There aren’t many group activities that he is able to do, he relies on a walker and it’s difficult for him to move around, but today was phenomenal and the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and the Oilers are a huge part of this,” said Jennifer Jepson.
“Thanks to them, Skyler is having so much fun and I know we’ll be hearing his stories for awhile.”
While all of the Neuro Kids were reveling in the once-in-a-lifetime experience at Rexall Place, we just hope that Skyler and his friends were having fun – twice.
For more information on the Neurosurgery Kids Fund, please visit neurosurgerykids.com. To learn more about the EOCF in the community, please visit oilersfoundation.ca.