After hearing about how Matt Murray helped the Ward Home in Pittsburgh through his "Saves MATTer" program last season, Tia Battles was inspired to do the same.
So for her 14th birthday, instead of asking for gifts, she asked for donations at a party held at MJ's Steel City Saloon in Coraopolis. Part of the proceeds went to the Ward Home, which is the region's premier provider of independent living services for at-risk teens and young adults.
"I've seen kids that need help, so I wanted to reach out to them and help them because I don't really need anything more," Battles said.
At the party, Bill Wolfe - who is the executive director of the Ward Home - presented Battles with a No. 30 jersey. What Battles didn't know was that she would get the chance to have Murray personally sign the jersey, too.
Murray surprised Battles with a meet-and-greet after the Penguins' 2-1 win over Anaheim on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, which is when the Penguins Foundation began its 10th anniversary celebration with a night full of special activities.
This season's celebration will focus on telling the stories of the Penguins Foundation and sharing their belief that kids are the future. If Tia's story is any indication, the future is in good hands.
"I heard about what you did and I just wanted to say that I'm really proud of you," Matt told Battles. "I was really inspired by your story, so thank you for that. That was amazing."
Battles had found out just a few minutes prior that she would be coming face-to-face with Murray, and she couldn't be happier for the chance to meet him and talk to him.
"To hear how I made him proud, that's a big moment," she said. "That makes me so proud. I want to help even more kids."
Last season, Murray and the Penguins Foundation ended up donating more than $73,000 to the Ward Home and two charities in his hometown of Thunder Bay (Children's Aid Services and Dilco) through "Saves MATTer."
Murray's late father James had worked with hometown charities both personally and professionally throughout his life, so the donations were made in his honor. It was humbling for Murray to hear that he had inspired someone else to make donations as well.
"That's the reason why I started 'Saves MATTer' in the first place, just to try and help any way I can and hopefully inspire some people along the way," Murray said. "I'm probably more inspired than she is. I mean, that's a pretty cool thing for her to do, for sure."