On September 8, the Oilers Ladies laced up to walk beside Kodette LaBarbera, wife of Oilers goalie, Jason LaBarbera as they supported Edmonton’s 6th annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks at Rundle Park. The three-kilometre walk might have been a short distance but its impact will be long-standing as the Oilers Ladies united behind the LaBarbera family and their personal connection to autism.
Jason and Kodette’s four-year-old son Ryder was diagnosed with autism in September 2012 and a lot has changed in one calendar year for the family. They have been learning how to best support their son’s needs and having just secured a therapist in Phoenix, Jason signed a one-year contract to don the orange and blue as a free agent on July 5, 2013 making the family’s next stop Oil Country.
The Ladies raised $1,000 on behalf of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) helping the event surpass its $250,000 goal benefitting Autism Speaks Canada. The funds will support national research including an Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network site at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Alberta, along with Family Services Community Grants.
“Having the Oilers Ladies come to this event really helps bring awareness for autism education and treatment here in Edmonton,” said Krista Leitham, Walk & Community Fundraising Manager, Autism Speaks Canada. “Everyone will cross paths with someone affected by autism and we need to learn to embrace them in their world.”
For the LaBarbera family, having the Ladies show their support only two weeks after moving to Edmonton filled their hearts.
“In the hockey world it’s amazing how quickly you all become family and to have our new family stand behind us so soon on our journey here in Edmonton with Ryder is amazing,” said Kodette. “We couldn’t be prouder or more honoured that all of the Oilers Ladies have rallied around this autism event to support our family.”
Kodette is focused on helping Autism Speaks Canada build a closer relationship with the community so others can embrace autism with a deeper understanding. Incredibly active in Oil Country already, this same spirit applies to her involvement in other charitable causes.
“We stand behind other causes that don’t apply to us or anyone in our families because we know that it helps,” said Kodette. “Having your community rally behind you is the thing that keeps people and families going through tough times.”
Jason and Kodette and their two sons Ryder and two-year-old Easton are looking forward to the fan support that comes from playing in a Canadian city. They are also quickly finding out that home really is where the heart is, and right now, it’s in Oil Country.
For more information about Walk Now for Autism Speaks, please visit autismspeaks.ca. To learn more about the Oilers Ladies involvement in the community, please visit oilersfoundation.ca.