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Local Youth Hockey Team Rallies Around Volunteer Coach

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

The five goals the Arctic Foxes Midget Minor team scored in their shutout over the Allegheny Badgers on Saturday afternoon not only got them a win – it earned them $50 towards a very important cause.

Head coach Beau Jones is donating $10 for every puck his team puts in the back of the net to help out volunteer assistant coach Chris DeLuca and his family.

DeLuca doesn’t have any children or relatives on the team. The former high school and college hockey player got involved simply because he loves the game.

“He’s just the best coach ever,” left winger Wyatt Hubler said. “He knows so much about the game. For as good as our other coaches are, he’s definitely the most knowledgeable about hockey. He’s played it, he’s been there, he’s coached it and overall, is just a great guy. He’d do anything to help you.”

Now, the team is doing everything they can to help him.

The team wearing their orange jerseys in support of Madelina DeLuca

After their first loss of the season back on Nov. 5, DeLuca shared some devastating news with his players and fellow coaches.

He told the team that his 2-year-old daughter Madelina had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The little girl was about to begin an intense battle with the cancer, as she was admitted to the hospital the next day and started chemotherapy two days later.

“When Chris addressed the team to tell us, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,”

Jones said. “He was emotional, I was emotional, the rest of the guys were emotional.”

For Hubler, it hit especially close to home.

“For me personally, it was heartbreaking because one of my friend’s moms passed away from the same disease not too long ago,” Hubler said. “We were really good friends with her, so it was kind of rough.”

Madelina would have to endure four one-month stays at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she would only be allowed home for 7-10 days after each treatment cycle. The coaches, players and parents immediately began thinking of ways they could ease the financial burden on the DeLuca family and help them get through this scary time.

They wanted the DeLuca family to be able to get the necessary treatments for Madelina to fight cancer, manage the mounting medical costs, and afford to have Chris or his wife Kristin with her at all times while also keeping a normal life at home for their other daughter, 5-year-old Gianna.

“We knew right off the bat we had to do something,” Hubler said. “We didn’t know what, but we just knew we could help him in any possible way. We just kind of started coming up with ideas. I designed a T-shirt, (another player) designed wristbands and it just kind of went off from there. Everyone just started doing stuff.”

The boys came up with several ways to raise money, one of them being $10 for every goal they score, as mentioned earlier.

“I opened up my big mouth and I said ‘all right guys, for every goal we score I’m going to donate $10,’” Jones laughed. “They came out and scored 11 goals in our next game.”

“It’s motivation to get goals, because it’s helping Madelina out when we score,” winger Devyn Wosotowsky said.

In addition to the T-shirts and wristbands, the team also sells ribbons. They’ve also held various fundraisers, like a spaghetti dinner and a wine tasting. They brought the DeLucas meals and Christmas presents over the holiday season, and the boys even offered to babysit Gianna – though Wosotowsky joked he’s not sure DeLuca would trust them to do that.

The Arctic Foxes Hockey Association also set up on online GoFundMe account on behalf of the DeLuca family called “Miracles for Madelina,” which is where they are funneling all of the money they’ve raised (click here to visit the page). And the support from throughout the hockey community has been overwhelming.

Over the past few months, the team has already raised $17,074 of their $25,000 goal.

“It’s all the way around the league, it’s not just us,” Hubler said. “I think it’s incredible. Some of the notes left on there, it’s just insane. I read them all the time. It’s so heartwarming to know that people care so much.

“The amount of people that have come to fundraisers and stuff and bought our T-shirts, I know I’ve personally worked a couple sales and it’s incredible. People hear the story and they want to just do whatever they can to help.”

It’s taught Hubler that even though opposing players may fight on the ice, they all work together off of it.

However, they’re not done yet. The Arctic Foxes – whose normal colors are red, black and white – wear a special orange jersey for their home games to support Madelina, as that is the awareness color for leukemia.

The team is going to cap off their fundraising efforts and hopefully reach their desired mark with an “Orange Out” at their last home game of the season on Feb. 22 at 11:50 a.m. at RMU Island Sports Center, where they will be holding a raffle – where one of the prizes will include a blank orange jersey. They want all of those in attendance to be wearing the color. Anyone is encouraged to attend.

“We want all the fans and everybody there to wear orange,” Jones said. “We’ll have T-shirts for sale there if you don’t have an orange shirt. And we want to have the entire stands dressed in orange to support Madelina. She’s right now in her third grouping of treatments. Then she’s got one more group of treatments after this, and then she’ll be done. She’s on the other side of halfway, which is good.”

As the team wrote on its GoFundMe page, “Please dig deep to help us reach and exceed our goal! Any donation, big or small, is greatly appreciated! Coach Chris and his family are a part of our hockey family. Please make them a part of your family and help them in their time of need. He and his family have been involved in our lives this year, and for some of us, the past three years. This is our chance to give back to him.”

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