DETROIT – As the Red Wings faced off against the New York Rangers on Saturday, October 26, they weren’t just playing for a win: they were playing for a cure.
The Red Wings hosted a special Hockey Fights Cancer Night presented by Van Andel Institute – Purple CommunitySM. Five survivors and their families were welcomed to watch the game in a “Survivor Suite” where they had the opportunity to connect with other individuals and families that have been affected by cancer.
Barb Miller and son Ethan were guests of the Survivor Suite. Ethan is currently going through treatment for leukemia. His school principal, Mr. Graham, nominated Ethan for the suite.
“I think this [HFC night] is awesome. Seeing all the purple, it’s nice to see that tonight is universal and represents awareness for all cancers. Also getting the awareness out that it’s not just adults, but kids too,” said Barb.
The most enthusiastic fans of the night were the Yons. Candy, and her children Alicia and Isaac, had the privilege of watching warmups from the penalty box followed by the game from Henrik Zetterberg’s suite.
Alicia, who is currently in treatment for astrocytoma, was the most enthusiastic fan of the whole night. “I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s amazing that the Red Wings make a day for children and others who have cancer,” she said.
“This is huge. With every dollar amount that is given to a search for the cure, it means we are one step closer to never having to diagnose another child with cancer,” said Candy. Her son, Isaac, who is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is also a huge Red Wings fan. “Hockey is great for raising awareness,” said Isaac. “This is so much fun.”
The Red Wings also held a special moment during a break in the middle of the first period, showing the scale to which cancer affects everyone. Each fan was delivered a blank “shared story card” on their seat before the game and were asked to write the name of someone they know who has been affected by cancer. Whether it was a patient or survivor, friend or family member, recent or past, tens of thousands of fans participated and saw that everyone around them had a story to share.
In addition to hosting special guests, the Red Wings wanted to do something to get the fans more involved. A bone marrow registration drive was held in partnership with Delete Blood Cancer DKMS. DKMS is the largest bone marrow donor center in the world. With just a quick swab of each cheek, a donor can be entered into the Be The Match Registry®, the largest and most diverse bone marrow database in the world dedicated to matching donors with patients from countries far and wide in the quest to save the lives of those in need of a transplant.
“My daughter and I thought it was a really nice thing to be able to do. We’ve heard and read a lot about, listened to the Wings talk about the drive and decided to do it,” said Vicki Seach of Plymouth. She and her daughter both signed up for the bone marrow registration.
The Red Wings hosted the bone marrow drive in memory of former Red Wings forward Shawn Burr, who was diagnosed in 2011 with myeloid leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant in 2012. Shawn sadly lost his battle with leukemia this past August.
Tara Revyn began blogging and networking about her condition to help answer the questions her family and friends were having regarding her cancer and as a way for her to communicate her experience with other patients. It was through this networking that Tara came into contact with Shawn Burr.
“I am a huge Wings fan. We weren’t close, but we went through the same thing at the same time. He promoted a couple of posts that I did with bone marrow drives. He was a supporter,” said Tara Revyn of her connection with Burr. Tara has been fighting Myeloma since 2003 and is a strong supporter of bone marrow registration.
“Even if you get only a few people [to sign up], those people could be a match for somebody that is desperately looking for a cure. I think it’s amazing that the Red Wings are doing this,” she said. Tara has been searching for a donor since her diagnosis in 2003, but with the help of the Be The Match Registry®, she has finally found a donor to help save her life.
The night’s events were part of the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month. Since its inception, the initiative has raised over $12.8 million towards national and local cancer institutions and organizations, children’s hospitals, and player charities. The Red Wings are one of seven NHL teams celebrating their Hockey Fights Cancer night this month.