Give Blood Play Hockey still making a difference
Funds raised by the annual Give Blood Play Hockey (GBPH) inline charity tournament continue to support clinical trials and research into the genomics of diseases like cancer and blood disorders.
This year’s event – the ninth annual – is scheduled for Oct. 22-25 at The Rinks-Irvine Inline. The four-day festival will once again bring the hockey community together to help raise funds for CHOC Children’s Hospital, which is the GBPH organization’s primary beneficiary.
Tournament founder Mary Quayle said event founders have made a long-term commitment to donate $1 million to CHOC by the 13th tournament in 2019.
“Casey Strale, our tournament hero, wore No. 13, so it’d be a fitting memorial to honor him on our 13th year with that impressive accomplishment,” Quayle explained.
Strale died two years ago at age 16 after succumbing to a rare form of cancer called Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC). The community closely followed his inspirational fight against the disease and he came to personify the GBPH tournament’s fight to eradicate childhood cancer.
The tournament continues to honor Casey’s brave four-year battle with the terrifying disease, and the fight continues. More than 13,500 children under 19 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States – that’s 37 children each day. The local hockey community currently has several brave children battling the disease.
Niko Greco joined the GBPH family in 2014 after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was just learning how to play hockey as a 6-year-old.
Greco has undergone intense chemotherapy treatments and will be treated as an outpatient at CHOC for the next three years. On Aug. 12, the second annual Team Niko Skills Night took place at the Lake Forest Ice Palace to raise funds in the quest to find a cure for childhood leukemia.
Greco’s ongoing battle with the disease prompted a personal visit from Anaheim Ducks winger Patrick Maroon that’s since developed into an ongoing friendship.
“His courage and his family’s positive attitude further inspire the Give Blood Play Hockey family,” Quayle said.
Last year’s GBPH event shattered previous records by collecting 327 pints of blood and netting $118,000 in funds.
Irvine Inline has also hosted several golf tournaments that have raised an additional $10,000 to bring total donations to CHOC to $486,608 since the tournament’s founding in 2007. The tournament has also collected 1,674 pints of blood in the previous eight years. This year’s goal is to surpass the 2,000-pint milestone.
Julie Ruff, a tournament founder, said 2015 is “stacking up to be the best year yet.”
In April, the GBPH organization participated in the Strale family’s effort to hold the inaugural Casey’s Cup charity ice hockey tournament that raised funds for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) – a non-profit biomedical research center in Phoenix that employs genomics technologies to help design new tests and therapies to treat ACC – the disease that afflicted Casey – and other types of cancer. The hockey community responded with overwhelming support and the event was a huge success.
“TGen was working on a genomic cure for ACC when Casey passed away,” Traci Strale, Casey’s mother, noted. “Their research is leading-edge and their approach is resulting in new and improved methods of treating and preventing all types of cancers.
“It’s important to note that TGen is in partnership with CHOC, which will significantly enhance CHOC’s ability to pass that research and benefits on to their young patients and their families.”
Quayle said this fall’s GBPH tournament is hoping to collect 328 pints of blood and top the $600,000 mark in total donations to CHOC since the tournament’s inception.
“We invite everyone to help us reach our goal, to play for Casey, to play for Niko, or to play for someone special in their lives, and for all the children and families touched by CHOC,” Quayle said.
To register for this year’s GBPH tournament, visit GiveBloodPlayHockey.org.
– Phillip Brents