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Australian fires hit close to home for Dumba

Wild defenseman came home refreshed following nearly three-week trek to the continent last summer

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Matt Dumba wasn't in a good place when he decided to up and leave for a vacation last April that would bring him halfway around the world.

The Wild defenseman was four months removed from sustaining an injury that short-circuited the best season of his young career.

After surgery and four months of exhausting rehab, four months of not playing the game he loves, four months of watching his teammates from afar, separated and feeling not part of the team, Dumba badly needed to get away and get his mind right.

So he and one of his best friends embarked on a 2 1/2 week trip to Australia, a place he had never been in his life but one that left a lasting impression.

Video: Matt Dumba reflects on trip to Australia

"When you go through injury, just having to deal with it, the mental part of it, it wears on you," Dumba said. "Just chilling at the apartment, it really is kind of a dark time. You don't really get to see your teammates as often as you'd like or really hang out with anyone. So it really was just a nice escape and get lost in the beauty.

"We really enjoyed it. Just really embraced everything over there, the culture and the people. It was a great trip."

Australia, its majestic beauty and friendly people, helped bring Dumba back emotionally and helped set up the rest of his summer, where he finished his rehab from injury and got himself ready to start a new season. 

"I came back with that hunger just to get back back at it and start training again," Dumba said.

 Knowing what the trip did for him has made recent reports from the continent all the more troubling for Dumba. Australia has been ablaze for the better part of the past six months. 

What started off as an active wildfire season has turned into an unimaginable tragedy: more than 15 million acres have burned across the continent, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed, two dozen people, including volunteer firefighters, have been killed. 

Some estimates have the number of animals killed approaching one billion. 

"It's the most beautiful place ever," Dumba said. "I've been going through pictures of mine on my phone, places that I've been and now I see those on Instagram or on social media and those exact same pictures that I have, it's nothing now. It's all in flames or just disintegrated." 

Hearing stories, seeing photos and doing nothing to help became too much for Dumba to handle, so he hatched a unique idea to help raise money for the cause.

Dumba, a big Minnesota Timberwolves fan, announced on Instagram that he would donate $100 for every point the Wolves scored in a Jan. 7 game against the Memphis Grizzlies. That money would go towards the New South Wales Rural Fire Service to help combat the fires and to care for the victims.

Instagram from @matt.dumba: As you all have seen across the news and Instagram, Australia is currently in a state of emergency with devastating fires sweeping across the lands, affecting habitats, communities, killing millions of animals and taking human lives.It's hard to understand the dramatic impact this is having sitting safely on the other side of the world, but not to long ago I was on that side of the world. After the season last year I was able to travel to Australia with my one my best friends. We travelled the entire east coast top to bottom over 2 1/2 weeks. After a long hard season dealing with injury I was able to escape and take my mind off all the what if's. I fell in love with this beautiful country. It breaks my heart seeing the tragedy they are facing. So I want to do my part and personally donate funds to help fight these fires and hopefully motivate you to do whatever you can to help. With Minnesota being my home and the TWolves being my team I'll be most definitely watching them tonight against the Grizzlies, I've decided to donate $100 for every point the T Wolves score directly to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Please help me by donating whatever you can to help with this cause and put an end to these fires. Whether that's $5, $100 or even just sharing this post if you are not in a position to donate right now, every small action helps when we come together. Click the link in my bio to donate directly to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service to help fight the fires and care for the victims of this tragic event.

"I just wanted to do something different," Dumba said. "Being across the world, seeing what's going on, I couldn't just sit there anymore. I knew I was going to be watching the Timberwolves game that night, so to make things interesting and try to include people ... try to get the Minnesota people on board."

The Timberwolves lost to the Grizzlies 119-112 that night, but their point total meant that Dumba would write a check for $11,200. 

It's an effort that Dumba said he wishes didn't exist, but one he felt compelled to be a part of. The hope is that Dumba's donation will be one that helps spur others to help the cause as well. 

Dumba also said he hopes to return to Australia soon. 

While he spent nearly three weeks there in April and May, exploring much of the east coast of the continent, Dumba has plenty of it left to discover. 

"I've said to people that I want tot go back like every second year," Dumba said. "Just try to see as much as I can, see more. Only 2 1/2 weeks, that's not close to enough time to be over there. That's definitely in the cards."


To join Matt in donating to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, click here.

To donate to the Australian Red Cross' efforts, click here


(All photos are courtesy of Matt Dumba)

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