While the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt across North America, Jeff Skinner wants to help those who cannot to stay home.
The Sabres forward made three individual donations of $53,000 (a nod to his jersey number 53) toward COVID-19 relief efforts in communities dear to him: Western New York; his hometown of Markham, Ontario; and Kitchener, Ontario, where he played two seasons with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.
"I'm not on the front lines," Skinner said. "I think it's an opportunity to be grateful for everyone who's doing such amazing work at this time to help everyone get through this."
Skinner made his first donation on April 2 in support of the fund set up by Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula dedicated to helping relief efforts in Western New York.
The fund began with a $1.2 million donation from Pegula Sports and Entertainment, in partnership with the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres Foundations. Its benefactors include the Western New York COVID-19 Community Response Fund, FeedMore WNY, and the Rural Outreach Center in East Aurora.
"For me, I think you try and look at ways that you can help," Skinner said. "Obviously Buffalo, with the Pegulas sort of kick-starting that foundation, it was something I was proud to join with my teammates and to contribute to."
Skinner then made matching donations to Markham Stouffville Hospital and to the Foodbank of Waterloo Region in Kitchener.
"I grew up in Markham," he said. "My family's all in Markham. I grew up not too far from the hospital. Obviously, I think just like every hospital across North America they're going through some challenging times."
"I think the connection to Kitchener, obviously I played junior hockey there and sort of grew up in the two years I spent there. The community welcomed me and supported me. I feel like it's important to give back to them for the support and growth that I was able to experience."
Skinner's donation to Markham will support front-line healthcare workers. The money given to Kitchener will provide more than 150,000 meals in the community, according to a statement from Wendi Campbell, CEO of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
"I think it's important to make sure you're trying to help as many people as possible," Skinner said. "Speaking to the representatives from each organization, I think it goes without saying it's a very difficult time for everyone right now.
"It's nice to be able to give back. They showed a tremendous amount of gratitude and they're working extremely hard just like a lot of people are to try and help everyone that needs support and to try and get through this thing."