Playing in a World Championship on home soil in front of huge crowds chanting USA and waving flags is bound to create some great hockey memories; however for Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin and me, our week in Burlington became extra special Monday night when we were invited to attend a Make-A-Wish foundation event. The three of us, not knowing exactly how the night was going to play out, eagerly accepted the invitation to the Burlington Country Club to take part in a fundraiser dinner and special surprise presentation to a fellow goaltender and an avid Team USA fan. As soon as we got there we were told that we would be the ones to surprise Beth, 17, by telling her that she is eligible to "make a wish". Apparently children are usually notified by a phone call to their parents so this night was going to be extra special because not only were we there to help raise awareness and money for such a great cause, but we got to deliver the amazing news in person.
Through various informative speeches and a tear-jerking video we learned the power of a wish for children who are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses and the excitement and brightness that it brings to a family. One of the coolest parts about Make-A-Wish is that the only limit for a wish is the child's imagination - so I'm sure you can envision some of the wishes they have granted over the years! After a great speech by Meghan Duggan it was our turn to take the stage. It started off simple, announcing that as the three goalies we had heard there was a fellow goalie there and invited Beth to join us up front. We then presented her with a stick that the whole team had signed followed by four tickets to our game against Finland the next night. As if she wasn't already excited, Vetter then delivered the most important surprise which was that she was now eligible to make a wish! (Her wish will then need to be approved and funded however the Vermont chapter of Make-A-Wish has been able to grant every child their wish - over five hundred now!!). You could feel the excitement in the room and I happened to be watching Beth's mom as the news was delivered and her reaction was priceless. It is safe to say there were few dry eyes as we took some pictures and let the moment sink in for her.
After the shock passed we were able to talk with Beth more, discuss goalie helmet designs, share hockey memories, and of course give our biased opinions on some cool places she could go / things she could do (all of them included bringing us along obviously)! You couldn't wipe the smile off of anybody's face the rest of the night. The feel-good moments continued the next night when Beth and her mom joined us in the locker room after we beat Finland. The three of us were so excited for the team to meet her after we told them all about the dinner the night before. She is a huge source of inspiration for all of us and it was amazing to see her join in on the post-game celebrations.
In a week where our main focus is preparing to be our best on the ice, taking time to attend an event like this truly puts our mission into perspective. We couldn't be any more fortunate than to play a game that we love at its highest level and I can promise you that we are not taking it for granted. As athletes, we are presented with opportunities to make a difference off the ice and in the community and it is easy to say that these memories last a lot longer and have a bigger impact on us than any win or loss does.