|Binghamton Senators forward Cody Bass wanted to honour the memory of Daron Richardson when he launched WINGS, a fund aimed at raising awareness of teen mental health issues (Just Sports Photography).
Cody Bass is still young enough to relate to the difficulties teenagers face in today’s world.
But he’s also reached the age that has him believing he can make a difference and wanting to be a leader in a cause that touches more people with each passing day.
With the memory of Daron Richardson in mind, the Binghamton Senators forward has launched WINGS — an acronym that stands for When I Need Guidance and Support. It is intended to raise more awareness about the issue of teenage suicide, which claimed the life of the 14-year-old daughter of Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson last November.
“I don’t think people really realize how hard it is to be in high school these days and to be a teenage kid,” said Bass. “I’m only 24 — I was a teenager six years ago and now I’m a young adult. I have two younger sisters who are teenagers and they’ve kind of had a hard time in high school as well. I just want to get the message out there that you should never feel alone and never feel you have to take your own life by suicide.
“There should always be somebody there to help out, no matter what. So that’s kind of the message we’re trying to get across. Make sure every teen has somebody there (with a shoulder) to cry on or to just listen.”
Bass feels a closer connection to the Richardson tragedy than most. When he was called up to Ottawa for the first time, the Richardsons opened their home to him and he came to see their family as his own. It was simply their way.
“They made it feel like home to me,” said Bass. “Living there, I got to know Daron pretty well. I got to know Morgan (her older sister). I got to know the whole family. They made me feel right at home and treated me really well. Luke is just a special man. He’s one of the greater guys I’ve ever met.
“The whole family is just unbelievable. I can’t thank them enough. It’s just a tragic thing to see what happened with Daron, so anything you can do to give back in honour of the Richardson name is awesome.”
Bass and B-Sens teammate drove to Ottawa to attend the celebration of life for Daron, which drew 5,600 people to Scotiabank Place — “one of the saddest things I’ve ever had to sit through in my life,” he later told theahl.com. By the time he returned to Binghamton, Bass knew he had to do something in memory of Daron.
"I don't think people really realize how hard it is to be in high school these days and to be a teenage kid ... There should always be somebody there to help out, no matter what. So that's kind of the message we're trying to get across. Make sure every teen has somebody there (with a shoulder) to cry on or to just listen." - Cody Bass
With the help of B-Sens staffers Kate Krenzer and Christa Reese, along with Jennifer O’Brien, the owner of the Magic Paintbrush Project in the Binghamton area, WINGS soon took flight. A silent auction was held just before Christmas, which raised more than $4,600 for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier in Binghamton.
Another event, an outdoor skate held Monday in Binghamton, raised another $800 for WINGS. The B-Sens’ wives and girlfriends got on board with a candy cane fundraiser before Christmas. Fans in other American Hockey League cities have come to Bass, wanting to donate to the cause. So have game officials.
The movement continues to grow and it has been a life-changing one for Bass.
“I’ve met some amazing people that have had amazing stories,” he said. “The support from around the league, from random fans donating money and referees who have donated money, and just people jumping on board who wanted to help … those people are special people and I can’t thank them enough.”
He knows there are more stories out there, more people who need a helping hand.
“The reality is, stuff like this does happen. You just don’t hear about it,” said Bass. “Everybody has their own story. You walk by somebody on the street and you don’t know what their story is until one day, you stop and talk to them. I have all these random people and for them to share their stories with me … These people have lost kids and family members, and it’s just a tragedy.
“I don’t wish that upon anybody, especially young children that have their whole lives ahead of them. It’s a tough life out there and you just hope for the best for everybody. If you have kids, you definitely want to see them grow up and live their lives.”
To learn more about the program or to make a donation, visit www.codybasswings.com