LOS ANGELES — National Hockey League teams sponsor a slew of activities and events each year, including charity hockey games, to help raise funds for worthy causes.
But how often do you see an informal group of fans—not a team, business or a non-profit organization—band together on their own to do that, independent of anyone else?
That’s rare, to be sure. But one group of Los Angeles Kings fans is doing just that on Sunday, August 16, 2015, when they will play a charity hockey game benefitting Be The Match, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping blood cancer and other patients get the life-saving bone marrow or cord blood transplants they desperately need.
Organizers expect the game to raise at least $10,000 for Be The Match.
“We’re expecting to raise $10,000, at a very, very bare minimum,” said Mike Gonzalez, founder of the Knights of the Forum group. “That’s not even looking at funds raised from the silent auction [of authentic, autographed hockey memorabilia], or corporate sponsors.”
“This game is the first of its kind for Be The Match,” added Gonzalez. “They’ve never had a charity hockey game in their name.”
As of this writing, corporate sponsors offering donations and/or matching funds include Bauer Hockey, British Airways, Darden Restaurants, Inc., Delta Airlines, DirecTV, Hawaiian Host, Inc., MGM Grand Resorts, Norwegian Cruise Lines, SkyWest Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
Current and former NHL players who have donated memorabilia include Rob Blake, Mel Bridgman, Sean Burke, Jeff Carter, Steve Duchesne, Jim Fox, Stephane Fiset, Colin Fraser, Scott Gomez, Ken Hodge, Alec Martinez, Bernie Nicholls, Bobby Orr, Tanner Pearson, Dustin Penner, Ryan Smyth, and Tyler Toffoli.
Fox and Nicholls are confirmed to be in attendance at the game, along with Kings retired head athletic trainer Pete Demers, who worked 2,632 consecutive games over 34 seasons before retiring after the 2005-06 season.
Demers, who became a trainer honoree in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, will also serve as the athletic trainer for both teams during the game.
Organizers stated that even though many blood cancers and other blood-related diseases often require bone marrow or cord blood transplants for treatment and/or cure, there is an acute lack of awareness of the tremendous need for bone marrow matching.
“There hasn’t been enough awareness of the need for bone marrow matching,” Gonzales stressed. “We want to inspire people to get swabbed [to collect DNA for matching purposes so that it can be registered in the national database], and shine a brighter light on the great need for more people to get swabbed and registered.”
“There are 12.5 million people in the registry, but there are so many patients who just can’t find a match, so the need remains critical,” Gonzalez added.
That need was never so apparent to a lot of Kings fans than when Tanner Raboin was struck down by an extremely rare blood disease at the age of 19.
“Shortly after birth, Tanner started getting sick, and it was difficult for doctors to pinpoint what was going on with him,” said Steve Raboin, Tanner’s father. “After a lot of testing, he was diagnosed with Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD). It’s an immune disorder where, in a nutshell, his white blood cells did everything that normal white blood cells do in trying to rid the fungus and bacteria from the body, except the very last step, when they attack the bacteria.”
“They surround the bacteria, and then they fire off peroxide to kill it,” added Raboin, whose family has been Kings fans since 1986. “But his white blood cells did not have the ability to do that, so what would happen was that granuloma would form around the bacteria, and over time, white blood cells would keep going to those blood cells, making for larger and larger granuloma. That caused infection, which was his challenge over his lifetime—he basically didn’t have an immune system.”
“There was a lot of sickness throughout his life, a lot of hospital stays, surgeries, biopsies, and the like.”
Tanner died on April 11, 2011, before a life-saving bone marrow match could be found, which, in large part, inspired Gonzalez, and others, to act.
“We decided to do this because after working with Steve Raboin, and a lot of other representatives from Be The Match—even after the Los Angeles Kings organization rallied [to try to help find a match] for Tanner Raboin—there needs to be more awareness,” he noted. “With this hockey game, we can inspire others to get swabbed and donate to this cause.”
“The Raboin’s, Scott, Tim and Steve, do so much for Be The Match, so I always want to raise funds and do whatever I can to help build awareness,” he added.
Just as important as getting swabbed to test for a potential DNA match is the need to raise funds to support the bone marrow matching program.
“To process a swab kit, it costs $100.00,” Raboin explained. “That includes the lab tests to put all that information in the DNA registry, so it’s just as important, if not more important, to get donations to help pay for the processing of the swab kits.”
“It costs $100.00 every time someone registers and gets swabbed,” Gonzalez noted. “It’s a lot of money, but once a match is found, it’s an amazing thing. It saves a life, so we just have to get more and more people into the registry.”
“We have to get the message out that, whether it’s donating money to Be The Match, or getting swabbed, it’s all desperately needed,” Gonzalez added. “There are so many people who can’t find a match because the numbers just aren’t there.”
Raboin will help staff a booth at the game where fans can learn about Be The Match, get swabbed, and donate to the cause.
“It’s been real important for us to advocate for Be The Match,” said Raboin, 51, of Chino Hills, California. “I tell other people that what we’re doing, every parent would do the same thing in the face of tragedy. I couldn’t see it any other way. It’s been a means of grieving.”
“It’s really been heartwarming to see people get excited about this the same way [my family] has been,” he added. “It’s really awesome. That’s been my dream for a long time—to get people really excited about it. To see them excited, to see them making Be The Match team pages [on Facebook] and raising money on their own, it puts tears in my eyes.”
Tickets for the Knights of the Forum Charity Hockey Game are still available. Glass Seating: $15.00; General Seating: $10.00; Standing Room: $5.00. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.kotfcharitygame.com. To bid on memorabilia in the silent auction, go to 32auctions.com.
You can also help by registering with Be The Match online. Click on: Be The Match.
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More Knights of the Forum Charity Game Coverage
- Teamwork Was One Of The Big Stories At Charity Hockey Game Benefitting Be The Match
- Charity Hockey Game Benefitting Bone Marrow Donor Program Goes Beyond Organizer’s Wildest Dreams
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