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Chris Neil on Roger's House

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

On March 28, the Sens will face off against the New York Rangers for Game 34 of this 2013 NHL Season. That same night, just down the hall from the on-ice action at Scotiabank Place, will be the ninth annual Sens Foundation Telethon for Roger's House beginning at 6:30 pm.

The telethon, put together by Sens Foundation staff, volunteers and supporters, will help garner support for Roger's House

The facility works directly with children and families by offering pediatric respite and palliative care programs to those who need them. Since Roger's House opened in 2006 it has provided over 13,000 days of care while admitting over 2,100 patients along the way. The faciltiy was created in honour of former Senators assistant coach Roger Neilson who passed away in 2003 after a long struggle with cancer.

Neilson left a legacy of generosity and compassion behind him, in addition to being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and receiving membership to the Order of Canada.

Now, nine years Roger's passing, Roger's House is a top pediatric care facility in Ottawa. Among the most prominent advocates for Roger's House is Senators' forward Chris Neil and his wife, Caitlin, who hold the title of honourary co-chairs for Roger's House and play a big role in fundraising initiatives for the facility.

"It was an honour for us to be considered to be a part of it. To have that kind of facility here in Ottawa, for the general public, it's amazing," said Chris. "For those families who use it for palliative or respite care, it gives them a break knowing that their child is taken care of."

Neil became involved with Roger's House many years ago when friend and former Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher was the honourary chair. When Fisher was traded, the opportunity to fill his void with Roger's House was a perfect fit for Neil.

"I did a little bit with Mike Fisher when he was the honourary chair. If there was a charity event here or there he was involved in I would go with him," said Neil. "When Mike got traded they approached me about it and, knowing a bit about Roger's House and actually knowing Roger and what he stood for, it was a perfect fit."

Since taking over the title the Neils have embraced their role as ambassadors for the facility. While they may come with more name recognition than most, they see themselves as just a pair in a multitude of those who do what they can to aid Roger's House.

"Any time you can put your name with such a great organization you don't hesitate. If I can help out and raise a bit of money here or there, go down and see some kids, try to lift up their spirits and help them get through some stuff. You do what you can" said Neil.

"I'm just one of thousands that help out with Roger's House and my hat goes off to all those people that donate their time, the doctors that are there, the nurses that go in, the people that donate a ton of money to Roger's House. Those are the true heroes."

The primary goal of Roger's House is to enhance the lives of the children and families who enter by fostering their freedom, security, pleasure, and quality of family life. Creating a comfortable space and positive memories are of the utmost importance for the mission of the facility.

To provide this level of care for a multitude of families requires an immense funding and time commitment. There are plenty of moving parts that never stop.

"There's so much stuff that goes on behind the scenes. A lot of money has to be raised, a lot of people volunteer their time. They're passionate about it. That's what makes the place run and the charity work the Sens Foundation does that my wife and I are a part of help generate money for it," said Neil. "It costs a lot to run a facility like that. The amount of money the Sens Foundation pumps back into the city to give back is phenomenal. It's a phenomenal place."

While the level of effort required to maintain such this quality of support for families and their children is immense, the return is worth every bit of it according to Neil. Not only are the children in high spirits, but families are comforted during what is a very dark time for many.

"Everyone thinks it's all gloomy and sad but when you walk into that place those kids lift you up. To see what they're going through and how they're happy, they enjoy being there, they're being well taken care of."

Now, with the primary fundraiser for Roger's House just around the corner, there is plenty of reason to lend a hand. For Neil, the work of Roger's House speaks for itself.

"I think the biggest thing is if anyone had a chance to go down and see Roger's House, you wouldn't hesitate donating anything at all. A dollar goes a long way. The more you put in, the more it helps. It's great to have a facility like this in your city," said Neil.

"You hope it stays empty, but it the reality is it doesn't. These kids need help and places like Roger's House, if you see these people who are there, donating their time, you wouldn't hesitate donating some money."

Tune in to the CN Roger's House Telethon on March 28 at 6:30 pm on Rogers Sportsnet. To learn more or make a donation please click here.

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