DETROIT — It’s just the right thing to do. Simple, straightforward and to the point. That’s Daniel Cleary’s philosophy on players giving back to the community.
“Well I believe that athletes have a responsibility for one, you’re a role model for kids,” Cleary said. “And two, to give back is just part of it. It’s not only what you should do but it’s the right thing to do. All these kids come to games and watch you play — and their parents — and they support you and to give back and to help out,”
In an effort to give back in his own way, Cleary donates tickets to each Red Wings home game to a child who has had an organ transplant or is currently waiting for an organ transplant. He said it was important to him to give back to children in some way, so he began the Cleary’s Kids program.
“I’ve got two of my own,” Cleary said. “I just think I have a real soft spot for kids. I think everybody does really, you know, but it was something that was really important to me, that’s all. Having two of my own really puts things into perspective.”
With an eight-year-old and a five-year-old of his own at home, Cleary’s family has lived in the Detroit area for the majority of his NHL career. His children have grown up and go to school here and being able to call the state of Michigan home fuels his motive to support the area in any way that he can. He said that many families face serious health problems and that he is fortunate to have not had any major complications with his family. Counting his blessings, Cleary hopes to have a positive impact on his guests.
“I like to meet the parents and the kid and say hello and hear their story,” he said. “Putting a smile on their face is all you’re trying to do. Some days are tougher than others for kids. I like to hear the stories of they’ve got a transplant and things are going well, I love to hear about that.”
The experience is a unique one for kids and in some instances, Cleary has the opportunity to reveal the game of hockey to many of them for the first time.
“A lot of kids I’ve met, this has been their first hockey game,” Cleary said. “So that’s been pretty cool to hear what they’re thinking. What I hope they get out of it is just a fun day, something that they’ll never forget. You give them some mementos that they can look back on and draw the memory back. I just think going to a hockey game and meeting an NHL player, getting some signed things, I think it’s a pretty cool thing. I think if I was a kid that I’d be pretty stoked for that.”
Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be an organ donor. There is no cost to donors or their families for organ or tissue donation and last year, donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible. However, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for organ transplants in the U.S., and just one donor could save as many as eight lives.
To find out more information about organ donation or to sign up to become an organ donor, visit OrganDonor.gov.