LETHBRIDGE – It’s become a rite of passage in Lethbridge.
After the Lethbridge Hurricanes score the opening goal in their Teddy Bear and Toque toss game, the bears litter the ice and it’s up to volunteers and staff to clean up the sea of stuffed animals.
Then the following week, members of the Hurricanes take the bears with them to Chinook Regional Hospital to deliver them to kids who could use some cheering up.
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, captain Jordy Bellerive alongside Jake Elmer, Keltie Jeri-Leon, Taylor Ross, and Ryan Vandervlis made their way to the hospital and delivered some of the 3868 bears collected during the Hurricanes game against the Swift Current Broncos.
Avery Hennessey, a 17-year-old at the hospital, was one of the kids visited by the ‘Canes who gave him an autographed wooden stick and a camo Hurricanes jersey.
“It was really cool, I heard that they don’t usually give away many of these sticks which is cool. I just wanted a jersey to be honest, so I got what I wanted and a little more,” Hennessey said.
Hennessey lit up when the players walked into the room and says the gesture was really nice.
“I appreciate that, and I’m glad they’re going around to other people and helping to cheer them up,” he continued. “It’s very thoughtful of them, they have other things to do, but they take the time out of their day to come, it’s pretty great.”
Some of the other visits open to the media at the hospital included the players visiting a little baby girl, who quickly became the star of the show with both Bellerive and Vandervlis holding her during the visit.
For Ryan Vandervlis, his own personal experience this past summer made the opportunity to deliver bears to the kids at Chinook Regional Hospital even more important.“
It’s never a fun place to be [in the hospital] so the fact that we were able to come down here and hand out some teddy bears to brighten up some kids’ days,” Vandervlis said.
Vandervlis has come a long way since a June 15 campfire explosion at the home of former team captain Tyler Wong, that left him in a medically induced coma, with burns to most of his body.
“I think until you’ve been in that position you can respect what they’re going through but you can’t put yourself in their shoes as easily. I know how much having visitors really truly helps in the hospital, like I said it’s never a fun place to be, the fact we were able to come down here and show our support and let them know we’re in the fight with them,” Vandervlis stated, adding it means a lot to the players to have this opportunity every year.
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