Last night, I was able to purchase a ticket to attend the 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation’s ”Black Tie Blue Jackets Style Show”. I’ve heard great things about this event for years and this was the year I finally decided to pool my dollars together and attend!
This year’s gala had the theme “Brightening the Journey” and from start to finish, it didn’t disappoint – not only as a fun time to be around the entire Blue Jackets organization but also as an event focused on the mission of giving back to the community specifically in the fight against pediatric cancer. I think it’s important to spend a moment talking about how much energy the Foundation spent incorporating the purpose of the night into everything. From the moment you walked in, you were greeted with large photos of the night’s “heroes” – young children battling pediatric cancer. Artwork from the children at Nationwide Children’s hospital was available for auction and the hero’s mingled with the group before the program started – some of them drawing just as big a crowd as some of our boys in Union Blue! We got to hear from the people leading the fight against cancer, and of course, the selected heroes were the stars of the style show that ended the evening. The fun and the joy on those children’s faces cemented their status as stars of the show (I think Colton Gillies’ hero has a lifetime crush on her runway escort – she beamed at him the entire time). I know I am not alone when I say that I have been touched by cancer through far too many people who are close to me. When you realize that the suffering you see/saw your loved ones go through is what these children are facing – its a harrowing discovery for sure.
Now we are a hockey site at heart so let’s talk about the involvement from our beloved Blue Jackets. It was great to see the organization out to support the night top to bottom. John P. McConnell opened the night with warm remarks. John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen, the entire coaching staff and every player on the roster was in attendance. Not to be outdone, we had the television and radio teams, Pepsi Power Patrol and Kia Ice Team there as volunteers, as well as representatives from all departments from within the Blue Jackets organization. What was great about this was the opportunity to really visit with everyone as “people”. This wasn’t a time to only be able to walk through a line asking for an autograph, get feedback on the last game or try and catch a pizza or t-shirt – it was just fun to visit with players, coaches and
Blue Jackets folk one on one. I was able to have some fun chats, with Dan Hinote, Matt Calvert, Nick Foligno and Colton Gillies all being a lot of fun. As far as the schedule of events, a cocktail reception (with a silent auction) was followed by dinner, a live auction and the style show. Kudo’s to the event committee because, while faaaaar out of my price range – there were amazing packages auctioned off including a week in Napa with a personal chef, and two hours with the Stanley Cup that brought in significant funds for the Foundation. The Style Show was definitely the culmination of the evening and it was just great to see these kids relish their moment in the spotlight. You could tell every player (and their wife/significant other) had really taken time to connect with their hero and the runway was fun for everyone who walked it. A particular shout out goes to hero Chase who performed the robot at the end of the runway while the MacKenzie’s looked on and laughed. The large smile on Vinny Prospal’s face as he thanked everyone for coming “and for giving us your money!” at the show’s conclusion really exemplified that the players weren’t just “showing up” last night.
Another great thing to see was how the players enjoyed the night. Guys were seated at tables around the stage and there wasn’t a single one who walked the runway who didn’t get a high five from another, or share a laugh across the room.We’re keenly aware of our struggles this year, but this group of guys is connected and for a roster in such a crazy state, that was nice to see.
All in all, the evening was a tremendous success. Everyone had a great time, we learned more about the fight against pediatric cancer and a record was broken as over $300,000 was raised to support children and their families fighting this awful disease. A tremendous round of applause to the Foundation leadership of Jen Bowden, Alison Pegg, and Colleen Cheek who pulled off a great event and made it look easy. I left last night on a high that even the cold and snow couldn’t break. We focus on on-ice performance a lot, but never forget that as we build a strong product to take the ice and struggle to excel at the game of hockey, we’ve already built an amazing foundation of service and community pride instilled by John H. MacConnell long long ago. Regardless of our record, there are things happening in Blue Jackets land to be extremely proud of.