Those that have followed the young NHL career of Cory Conacher know that the Sens winger has had to overcome numerous challenges to become the NHL regular he is today. Beyond his diminutive size which led to many writing his future in the sport off at a young age, he has had to overcome multiple health obstacles just to be capable of being physically active, let alone play a sport in the world's best league.
The NHL put together a brief feature on Cory's journey during his time in Tampa Bay which you can see here...
While Conacher has become known for his work to help Diabetes awareness and research — he gave a lecture to group of 250 people in Ottawa just a couple of weeks ago — he is also getting involved with those who were born with bladder exstrophy, a birth abnormality which results in the bladder being born on the outside of the human body and requires surgical reconstruction.
Given the scarcity of those who have been born with the condition — it occurs among roughly one in 50,000 births — it isn't often that Conacher gets to meet families and children with similar stories, but he makes time for those who do when they cross paths. Last week in Ottawa he hosted a group of kids who were born with the condition at Senators practice and spent some time with them afterwards. He's hopeful that taking time out to offer his advice and share his success makes those affected more open about the condition and more confident about living with it.
"They were born with the same disease I was when I was younger and it's a pretty rare disease," said Conacher. "This year is actually the first I've gotten to know a couple of kids with the same disease so awareness starting to get out there which is nice."
"Hopefully kids see that I'm willing to help them and their families out because it's a tough disease to live with, especially as a young kid. It's something I try and do to ease their years as a teenager or younger."
Conacher recognizes the opportunity he has to give back as a professional hockey player and someone that understands the difficulties many young people face when dealing with various conditions or illnesses and tries to offer as much support and insight as he can. He hopes to make a difference by engaging kids and families in discussion as well as other initiatives such as his golf tournament for juvenile diabetes which had its inaugural run this past summer.
"It's important for kids to understand that they are considered diseases but I try and tell them it's just more of a challenge to get over it," said Conacher. "It's important for them to know that they can do what they want with their lives as long as they're taking care of their body and accepting the challenge they have and the disease they have."
Unfortunately, opportunities to raise funds and awareness are relatively limited for Conacher during the hectic NHL schedule beyond CHEO visits and the occasional talk, but he dedicates a large portion of his summer to the causes that are near and dear to him with aspirations of growing his golf tournament and continuing to connect with people who have encountered similar obstacles.
Families who face these challenges can get in touch with Cory and find out more about his story via his website, CoryConacher.com.
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