Friday was special for anyone in attendance at the Fernie Ghostriders game.
A sold out match against the Kimberley Dynamiters brought with it five periods of fast hockey and exciting action. But for one fan in particular, the night was extra special.
Inside the Ghostriders dressing room, the team was getting ready to face their division rivals.
Above an empty seat in the middle of the room was the name of their newest team member: Kaleb Hills-Dagenais.
Below his name hung a brand new jersey, signed by every player on the team. The 10-year-old Elkford boy spent hours with the team, meeting each player, talking strategy and taking pictures. Before taking to the ice, the team concluded with a chant dedicated to Kaleb.
Kaleb is currently battling B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer in the lymph nodes. In December 2018, doctors found a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, which compressed his nerves and rendered him unable to walk.
“I think we can all agree that if we battle like Kaleb is battling, we’re going to be pretty successful,” said Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner as the team sat together in the dressing room.
After the game, the coach said he was inspired by the youth’s positivity and perseverance.
“To see a young boy like that battle adversity at that age and maintain the positivity he does… it’s a scary thing and I couldn’t imagine taking it on, even at my age, and I’m 30,” said Wagner.
“The experience for our guys was the same I think. He came into the room, he was a bright light. We fed off his energy, his courage, his outlook on life and we really wanted to put a good effort forward for him.”
For the past six weeks, Kaleb has been undergoing chemotherapy in Vancouver with his family travelling from Elkford to support him. This combined with taking time off work has proved difficult for them.
As Kaleb was being pushed out onto the ice for the national anthem, a group of hardworking individuals manned a station in the lobby, collecting donations for the family.
Spearheading the fundraising event were Janice Lucko and Yvonne Sevinski, co-workers of Kaleb’s mom, Kelsey Hills.
“We were talking about doing a fundraiser and my daughter had cancer so I know how hard it is to lose a job, and have to be there 24-7,” said Sevinski.
“It’s a lot… it’s always easier to deal with what you’re dealing with, without the stress of worrying about how to get your bills paid too.”
From the moment a hockey fundraiser was proposed, Sevinski says everyone has been extremely supportive; from the businesses who donated items to auction off to the Ghostriders for allowing them to set up a stand at Friday’s home game.
Over $3200 was raised for the family that night through the raffle, bake sale and donations from fans. As the night went on, the generosity continued.
People from the community approached the table with envelopes of various donation amounts. A raffle winner chose to donate the prize to Kaleb. The crew working the beer room also donated their tips to the cause.
“I just think our community is exceptional,” said Sevinski.
“I’ve lived here all my life and even back in the old days, you knew everybody and if they were down on times it was always somebody helping somebody.”
“We’ve got a pretty good community in Fernie,” added Lucko. “Fernie is an awesome community when it comes to supporting somebody.”
Those who were not able to donate at the hockey game and would like to support the Hills-Dagenais family can visit Gofundme.com/6l0sjz4.