Olympic women’s hockey five-time medallist Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser and Humboldt Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki brought their inspirational A-games to a recent The Lending Cupboard fundraiser in Red Deer.
“When I was contacted to come and do this, it was a no-brainer given what I do now in medicine,” said Wickenheiser, who won four Olympic golds and a silver in her 23-year career with Canada’s national team.“This is a brilliant idea. I don’t know why we aren’t doing this across the country. It makes a lot of sense.
“It provides a very valuable service in the community…if we can help to raise that profile, that’s so good.”
Wickenheiser, who is also a physician, author and senior director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, shared many details of her own memorable journey at the June 16 event at Red Deer’s Cambridge Hotel. She reflected on the hockey dreams that have been intrinsic to her life from a young age.
As part of the ‘An Evening with The Lending Cupboard’ event, Wickenheiser also interviewed Straschnitzki onstage, giving him the opportunity to reflect on the Humboldt bus crash of April 6, 2018 and the courageous steps he has taken to re-build his life since.
Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down when a transport truck collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Sixteen people were killed and another 13 were injured.
The 23-year-old has since had an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine, which has allowed him to stand on his own and take steps in a walker.
“My entire process from the time of the accident has made me realize how this kind of support really helps out,” said Straschnitzki, adding that bolstering awareness about The Lending Cupboard service is critical as well.
“It’s such a great idea, and it benefits so many people. The more the word can be spread about it, there’s even more of an impact that can be made.
“Being in a wheelchair these past four years, I’ve realized how inaccessible things can be when you live with a disability, so I think it’s important to raise awareness about these kinds of programs,” he said, adding “I think it’s a great initiative.”
The Lending Cupboard executive director Dawna Morey expressed her gratitude to the powerful and inspirational Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki duo.
“I’m humbled that they joined us, and I’m also humbled by their incredible generosity, having donated $10,000 back to The Lending Cupboard,” said Morey.
The Lending Cupboard board chair Amanda Blairsaid she was blown away by the generosity of all the attendees, including of course Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki, and the overall support from the community.
“Seeing everyone pull together just gives you that faith in humanity – it warms your heart,” she said. “Everyone there was also super enthusiastic about it – I think a lot of people learned more about The Lending Cupboard, which is also what we are trying to do.”