How often does a person that you've never met make an impact on your life? I know in my case, it doesn't happen often. However, I was contacted a few weeks ago about a little girl that was a big hockey fan, especially for the Missouri Mavericks. I typically have numerous requests throughout the season from fans, asking me to introduce them to their favorite players after the game, or get an autograph from their favorite Mavs player. For some reason, this one felt different. For some reason, I immediately knew that I wanted to do anything that I could to help this little girl out. This little girl's name was Kayla.
After exchanging a few messages with Kayla's mother, she informed me that Kayla had cancer and had been in the hospital for quite some time. She told me about how Kayla loved to talk about hockey with her friend Erin, a proud member of the Orange Army herself, especially her two favorite players: Andrew Courtney and Dave Pszenyczny. In just corresponding with Erin and Kayla's mother, anyone could tell that this little girl was special.
Kayla was scheduled to attend a recent Mavericks game, so the three of us worked together to have Kayla meet Courts and Chezy after the game. She never made it to that game. Her health rapidly declined, and she was crushed that she couldn't make it to meet her favorite players. Instead we sent some pictures of the guys and an autographed t-shirt, to show that we supported her as much as she rooted on for the Mavericks every night. To show her thanks, she sent a letter to Chezy thanking him for the gifts, and she also sent one to me. That letter comes with me to the IEC every night.
Kayla had a couple of wishes. One of them was to see Chezy score a goal. As great of a player as Chezy is, he's not known for scoring goals. So, when Chezy lit the lamp Thursday night in Wichita, my eyes immediately welled with tears, knowing what that would mean to her. I've seen a lot of goals scored in my life, but I don't know if any of them have more meaning than that one. Kayla's other wish was that the Mavericks' fans wear pink for her at one of the upcoming home games.
Kayla passed away early Saturday morning. After hearing the news, I had to do something to honor this strong, courageous, whole-hearted little girl. I asked all of you to help me, to help spread the word to wear pink to Saturday's game against Arizona. The response was unbelievable. I walked through the concourse tonight fighting back tears. Pink shirts, hats, bandanas, jerseys, bracelets, and even boas flooded The IEC. Her wish had come true once again.
Kayla's family doesn't want flowers or money sent to them, but instead they would like for you to give back. They feel as though donating your time and/or money to St. Jude's is the best way to honor Kayla, but I'm going to ask one more thing of you. Make an impact on someone's life, no matter how small. The next time you are at a Mavericks game, introduce yourself to a fellow member of the Orange Army that you've never met before. Extend your hand to your brothers and sisters in orange. That person could have an impact on your life like you would have never thought, and you could do the same for them.
I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for what you showed me tonight. You showed me that it doesn't matter if you are eight years old or eighty years old, the Orange Army stands up for their own kind, for their own family. I've always been proud to be the voice of the Orange Army, but tonight I couldn't be more proud to be a member of the Orange Army myself. Tonight is a night that I will never forget. Orange Pride.
Note: I'm still downloading and organizing all the photos that were sent to me tonight, honoring Kayla. I'll be sure to share them once they are all compiled.
Also, thank you so much to Erin, Chezy and his wife Natalie, and Courts for doing all that they could to make Kayla's wishes come true. I'm honored to walk beside you all.