Wildly popular Give Blood Play Hockey Tournament set to face off in October
The 11th annual Give Blood Play Hockey Inline Charity tournament is scheduled Oct. 19-22 at The Rinks-Irvine Inline.
And it’s not too early to reserve a spot in this event that grows each year.
For many teams, the warm-hearted charity event faces off the new season of roller hockey in Southern California. It is usually a sell-out, so the field can fill up fast.
Last year’s ground breaking 10th anniversary event featured a field of 116 teams. Tournament organizers donated just under $150,000 to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), the event’s primary beneficiary. That number was up from $125,900 in 2015.
The tournament is closing in on its goal of raising $1 million for CHOC.
In 10 years, donations to CHOC have totaled $751,482 — just $248,518 short of reaching the magic mark.
Perhaps just as impressive is the total blood donation count of 2,573 pints; the event collected 481 pints in 2016, up from 418 in 2015, according to tournament co-founder Mary Quayle Korus.
“Each pint of live-giving blood can save three lives,” she explained.
The four-day carnival-like event encompasses a smorgasbord of activities, ranging from the competitive hockey tournament (ages 6 through adult) and onsite blood drive to festive face painting and other family-friendly activities.
Registration is open through Oct. 10 at www.givebloodplayhockey.org.
“We would love to encourage people to register their teams early, as always, we will sell out as we did last year,” Korus said.
The fundraising focus, as always, is on eradicating pediatric cancer.
Korus points to some sobering numbers. More than 13,500 children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. That amounts to 37 children per day.
That’s why the tournament is directing 100 percent of funds raised to help find a cure.
Niko Greco, now 9, returns as the 2017 featured cancer warrior for the tournament. GBPH staff first met him in 2014 while he was battling leukemia.
Korus is happy to report that Niko finished three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy this past May.
“He is considered ‘done with cancer,’” Korus noted. “May 5 is now considered Cinco de Niko by the city of Laguna Hills and its mayor.”
The GBPH tournament has been a part of Niko’s courageous fight against childhood cancer by helping provide backpacks for young patients at CHOC stocked with the necessities for the family as they prepare for the battle ahead.
“Niko’s backpacks are awesome,” Korus explained. “I know I cannot fathom what it would be like to hear the words ‘Your child has cancer.’ Speaking for the Greco family, I know their mission is to make the lives of those families just a little bit easier by giving them some much needed everyday items.
“We will have a drive for Niko’s backpacks this year, of course, at Give Blood Play Hockey 2017.”
Korus said it is because of such personal stories such as Niko’s that everyone needs to keep fighting and are invited to join the Give Blood Play Hockey team in the continued commitment to research and development in an effort to find new treatments and to someday find a cure for kids like Niko.
Skate it forward
Despite now living in Denver with her husband of one year, Korus remains steadfastly connected to the Give Blood Play Hockey board of directors.
“Give Blood Play Hockey community volunteers and tireless board members are family,” she said. “Give Blood Play Hockey holds such a big place in my heart. What we have done over the past 11 years is truly remarkable and each year we add more and more dedicated supporters.”
Korus noted that one of the exciting things to highlight is that the tournament will be launching a campaign called Skating It Forward for Cancer Research, Treatment and Quality of Life.
“We are excited to join forces with Casey’s Cup and will be partnering with the Translational Genomics Research Institute organization (TGen) in Phoenix, Ariz., from this year and for the years going forward,” Korus said.
Casey Strale, the event’s namesake, died from a rare form of cancer — Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC) — in June 2013 at 16 years of age. An avid inline and ice hockey player — and overall hockey fan — Casey was a key member of the Southern California hockey community.
His name became synonymous with the Give Blood Play Hockey tournament as its ambassador and his passing only further energized the local hockey community.
Last year, the tournament hosted Casey Strale Day devoted to remembrance and celebration of the life of the tournament’s high profile ambassador.
Founded by Casey’s parents Chris and Traci Strale and family friend Julie Ruff (all GBPH board members) in 2015, Casey’s Cup, a charity ice hockey tournament in the spring, raises funds for the type of cancer that claimed Casey’s life.
Casey’s Cup (www.facebook.com/caseyscup/) works closely in fundraising partnership with TGen to unlock targeted therapies that can dramatically improve the outcome for cancer patients.
TGen is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments for cancers such as the one that claimed young Casey’s life. TGen is a world leader in translational genomic and proteomic cancer research — the study of genetic and protein drivers of disease.
“On behalf of the Give Blood Play Hockey Board of Directors, we are excited to partner with TGen and CHOC to accomplish our mission, which is first and foremost to beat cancer, period,” Korus said. “We all have someone who we must fight for, and with the hockey community joining the cause, we get closer each year.”
For more information, visit www.givebloodplayhockey.org.
— Phillip Brents