Give Blood Play Hockey reaches new heights
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The largest charity inline tournament in the world, Give Blood Play Hockey (GBPH) rolled out its ninth annual edition from Oct. 22-25 at The Rinks-Irvine Inline.
Tournament co-founder Mary Quayle had one word to sum up the weekend: “Amazing.”
The festive, family-friendly event featured a sold-out field of 106 teams that competed in divisions ranging from 6U to Pro, Women’s and Beginners. The total surpassed last year’s 101 teams in 18 divisions.
The four days were chock full of activities at the rink: skills competitions, live music, a street hockey exhibition for children with special needs, a silent auction and the tournament’s best lineup so far of food trucks that Quayle said kept players, fans, spectators and volunteers “full and happy.”
Quayle called this year’s blood drive “insanely successful.”
“We met our goal to collect our 2,000th pint of blood in total over the last nine years of Give Blood Play Hockey,” she said. “But we didn’t stop there; the goal was 364 pints of blood and, over the drive, we collected 418, surpassing our goal by 54 pints.
“Over the weekend, we heard stories from players, coaches and parents about the impact that blood donations have made on their lives or the lives of loved ones. People really came out ready to give this year.”
Quayle noted that 56 corporate sponsors and vendors participated this year. Festivities on Oct. 24 included a check presentation for $127,946 to CHOC Children’s Hospital.
“This year we surpassed every goal we had set for ourselves within the Give Blood Play Hockey organization,” Quayle said. “The donations are still coming in, and people still have time to donate (donations can be made through GiveBloodPlayHockey.org).
“All donations go to CHOC Children’s Hospital, specifically to research for clinical trials and research into the genomics of diseases like cancer and blood disorders.”
A new perpetual accolade called “The Machine Award” was unveiled at this year’s tournament to honor all former volunteers of the year as well as this year’s recipients, Erin and Mark Greco – the parents of the 2015 GBPH tournament poster boy Niko Greco, 7, who’s battling leukemia.
Julie Ruff is one of the founders of Give Blood Play Hockey and serves as its executive director. Quayle noted that Ruff has been lovingly referred to over the past nine years as “The Machine” for her “unbelievable dedication, hard work and amazing accomplishments she’s been able to power through.”
“Without her, Give Blood Play Hockey would have never become the remarkable event it is today,” Quayle said.
Scholarship award-winners included Andrew Hernandez (Casey Strale, Who Do You Play For?) and Michael Wong (Peter Clauss, Bleed By Example).
Special mention was made to the tournament’s outstanding supporters this year: Pathway Capital and Pacific Premier Bank (title sponsors), Mission/Bauer (vendor of the year) and Craig Appleby from the Anaheim Ducks (partner of the year).
Special mention also went to the Guertin twins – 9-year-old Carla and Catherine – who raised $1,000 for CHOC by hosting lemonade stands over the summer. They presented their checks at this year’s event.
CHOC’s Choco Bear, Ducks mascot Wild Wing and the Ducks Power Players attended the event and assisted in presenting awards, hosting the skills competitions as well as welcoming special guests, including Dr. Leonard Sender, the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Programs at CHOC Children’s.
Sender spoke about the impact the Give Blood Play Hockey organization has had over the past nine years, its importance and how it really does save lives every day, Quayle noted.
The most emotional moments, of course, were reserved for the kids currently battling cancer, specifically the mothers of Greco and Scarlette Tipton sharing their stories.
Said Quayle: “They introduced us to their Beads of Courage; the families are given a different color bead for each procedure their kids go through – each chemo treatment, each night in the hospital, each blood transfusion and the list goes on.
“When Scarlette’s mom, Simone, handed me Scarlette’s beads, I could not believe how heavy they were. In Scarlette’s first year of life, she spent most of that time in the hospital. She was born with cancer, so she’s been fighting for her life since Day 1. She’s had 19 surgeries and her fight continues. It was an honor to name one of the rinks this year ‘Rink Scarlette.’”
On behalf of the directors of Give Blood Play Hockey, Quayle wanted to thank each person individually who participated one way or another in this year’s event and all previous events.
“Looking around the event this year, you could feel the joy of all who were in attendance, but even more spectacularly you could see that people knew they were truly making an impact,” she said. “People came together in a huge way to give blood, give hair, give a helping hand, give a story, give funds.
“‘Give’ was a huge theme this year. “It was incredible.”
– Phillip Brents