In what has taken shape as one of the most important causes in women’s hockey, Do It For Daron is an opportunity to provide encouragement and support, while honoring the life of Daron Richardson. Of note, February is Daron’s birth month, marking a special time to celebrate her life and raise awareness for a noble cause.
With events held from December through February, various members of the men’s and women’s hockey communities participate in fund raising efforts for DIFD. Hockey games are complemented by tables located throughout arenas where fans could not only learn more about DIFD and mental health through literature and conversation with proud volunteers, ceremonial faceoffs and postgame events where players engaged in a heart formation on the ice were all gestures of support.
On January 30, 2015, the Cornell Big Red held their DIFD night in a contest against the Union College Dutchwomen. Fans were encouraged to wear purple (Daron’s favorite color) to the game as a show of support to raise awareness about youth mental illness. In an 8-2 victory for the Big Red, it was only fitting that Big Red skater Morgan Richardson (Daron’s older sister), logged a point in the game, assisting on Emily Fulton’s second period goal.
Since Morgan has joined the Big Red in autumn 2012, the program has shown tremendous compassion in supporting the cause. As a side note, it became a cause close to the heart of former captain Jessica Campbell, who lost a close friend to mental illness in her home province of Saskatchewan. The game featured sales of T-shirts and purple bracelets raised funds, while players such as Hanna Bunton have all participated in public service announcements for Cornell about the cause.
During that same week, a pair of men’s hockey teams in Ottawa, Ontario (the city where Daron’s father, former NHLer Luke Richardson was born) also held their own DIFD nights. Both franchises have made such nights annual traditions, providing the cause with a very strong voice in Canada’s capital.
Taking into account that both games in the same week as the Bell Let’s Talk campaign (which helps raise funds for mental health awareness), it was the perfect week to build on such important momentum. The 67s hosted the Sarnia Sting for its fourth annual DIFD game, which held an emotional component for a member of the Sting.
Second generation player Jakob Chychrun is a cousin of Daron. Sharing his enthusiasm on social media for the cause, the Sting also held their own DIFD night on February 8, versus the Mississauga Steelheads.
Of note, the Senators held their DIFD night against the Dallas Stars, which featured the return of longtime franchise member Jason Spezza. For fans who were not able to attend the game, they were able to text DIFD to 45678 and make a $5 donation. Despite donning the visiting team’s colors, Spezza’s first game back in Ottawa could not have come on a more important night. There was also a pre-game ceremony featuring Stephanie Richardson (Daron’s mother), Clara Hughes and Anonda Hoppner.
During the first weekend in February, two other proud hockey programs showed their support for DIFD. The Quinnipiac Bobcats (based in Connecticut) held their own DIFD night as they hosted the Big Red. Bobcats freshman Raquel Pennoyer would log the first two points of her NCAA career as the Big Red fought back from a 3-2 deficit to prevail by a 4-3 tally in overtime.
For the Bobcats, it is a cause close to the heart of competitor Cydney Roesler. Having grown up in Stittsville, Ontario, she was a competitor with the PWHL’s Ottawa Lady Senators, playing alongside Morgan. The two would also be teammates on the Canadian contingent that captured the gold medal at the 2012 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds.
On December 20, 2014, the Ottawa Lady Senators competed against a team of Midget AA OWHA players at the Richcraft Sportsplex raising over $15,000. Having participated for the Nepean Wildcats in the PWHL’s inaugural Do It for Daron game, Josianne Pozzebon remembers a time when Daron was an on-ice opponent, only adding to the importance of participating in such an important game.
“I had played against Daron and heard a lot of great things about her. Her story touched me a lot. It was an honor to be able to play in those games and help other kids in need.”
Of note, Pozzebon would also follow in Morgan Richardson’s footsteps and compete for Canada’s Under-18 National Team. Currently a member of the Cornell Big Red, Richardson will have a chance to grace the ice with Pozzebon during NCAA play, as Pozzebon joins the Clarkson Golden Knights.
Having held games in honor of Do It for Daron since 2012, Ottawa’s Carleton University Ravens program is proud to give back. With the Ravens donned in purple jerseys, with the heart logo proudly adorning the front, they would tangle with the number one ranked club in CIS hockey; the Montreal Carabins.
In the game’s aftermath, a heartwarming moment occurred as Ravens and Carabins players alike, gathered at centre ice, and made the shape of a heart as the fans applauded in approval. As a side note, the Bid Red also engaged in the same effort with the Union Dutchwomen.
For a pair of Ravens rookies that grew up in other parts of Ontario, Kathryn Steele and Sidney Weiss, this was a cause that they may not have been familiar with, but it would become one that they were proud to be involved with. Steele remarked on her first DIFD night with the Ravens, “It was amazing. I have known people that have gone through problems with mental health and this was important.”
One of the leading scorers for the Ravens, Weiss was ecstatic at the chance to be part of such an amazing event. Having grown up in Sarnia, Ontario, there was an emotional component for her,
“I have a couple of friends that were affected from mental health. It was cool to see such a big organization take part in it. To be a part of it was amazing. It was so cool to see a lot of stuff such as the jerseys and socks being donated. There was a great turnout today!”
For fifth-year player Sadie Wegner, another Lady Sens alum that played with Richardson, the chance to have played in four DIFD games during her Ravens career certainly stands out as a career highlight. Considering that it is her final year of eligibility with the Ravens program, it was only fitting that her final DIFD game took place while she was able to wear the trademark purple jersey with the DIFD heart logo proudly adorning the front of said jersey.
“It was great to wear the purple jersey. Three girls on our team were close to Daron and they did a lot of extra stuff (for the game). They got the jerseys and the socks, everything was donated.
This is a good outreach for the community. I played with Morgan during with junior years on the Ottawa Senators (PWHL). We were coached by Luke Richardson. I was affiliated with the team when I was 15. He was a great coach. He got me where I am today.”
Of note, Luke Richardson will lead the Binghamton Senators (where he serves as head coach), for their Do It for Daron night on February 20, 2015 against the Hershey Bears.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Carleton Ravens faceoff photo by Valerie Wutti @VWutti
DIFD bracelets image obtained from: https://twitter.com/StingHockey
Other images obtained from Facebook