It was the way everybody should grow up, on a small street in a small town surrounded by family and friends. For Brad Richards, that’s how it was in Murray Harbour. His cousins lived across the street and his grandparents right down the road. It was, and still is, a tight-knit family with a steady work ethic and strong family values and the deeply rooted belief system that you help people.
His mother’s sister’s son Jamie Reynolds and he were very close. Only two years apart, the pair were constant companions. But when Jamie was 3 ½ - and Brad was 5 or so, Jamie was diagnosed with brain cancer. Brad knew his cousin was sick; their playtime which should have been on frozen ponds or baseball fields was instead in the hospital in Halifax and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, PEI.
When Brad was almost 9 years old he was coming home from a wrestling match one day. His father picked him up and delivered the news that his younger cousin Jamie lost his battle with brain cancer. “I guess it is a lot for an 8 year-old to process, but when I saw him the day of the funeral, it hit me, what was happening”. Brad Richards has thought about Jamie ever since, and one could imagine has been planning this day for the better part of 20-odd years.
Richie has held an annual golf tournament on the Island, written lots of checks, signed more autographs than most, purchased tickets over the years for sick children, and has the reputation of one of the NHL’s real good guys. I’ve known him for a few years now and I’ll tell you he’s even more than that.
I was invited to be there today, our final today in Charlottetown at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for the press conference where it was announced that Brad Richards was donating $ 500,000.00 to start an endowment, from which equipment will be bought annually for the children’s cancer ward. It is a significant gift, one the filled hospital banquet room greeted with teary eyes and a standing ovation.
“I’m blessed to do what I do… I’m very fortunate that I get to play hockey and make a good living. My family has always taught me to be generous and kind to others”.
With his father Glen and his mother Delight bursting with pride while showing such class and humility a few rows in front of him, Brad, who isn’t usually comfortable in front of large groups, gave a short but moving speech to an audience of people he already knew so well.
And now – we all got to know them too.
It was the perfect way to end our few days in Charlottetown, with one of their favorite sons leaving a lasting and meaningful gift.
Charlottetown I should think will be paying close attention to the Dallas Stars this season. And we’ll all remember our brief time there.
Because it’s the kind of place that no matter where you go or who you are – if you grew up around there – you don’t forget where you came from and how to treat people, and when you meet somebody like that – you don’t forget either.