MASSENA - When the SUNY Potsdam mens hockey team wraps up its regular season this weekend at the Massena Arena, theyll be playing for more than a playoff spot.
The team will be paying tribute to two local children suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, while also working to promote awareness and raise funds to combat the disease.
Joining the team for their games on Friday and Saturday will be Hunter Cooke, 10, of Hogansburg and Claire Nezezon, 2, of Norwood.
Coach Chris Bernard said the team has been fortunate enough to have been working with Hunter since October, but this weekend will be its first time meeting Claire, whose grandmother, Dayna Cole, works at SUNY Potsdam.
Mr. Bernard said Claires grandmother heard about the teams relationship with Hunter and inquired whether there was anything they could do her granddaughter, who also suffers from Cystic Fibrosis.
Claire is two-and-a-half and new to the program, but shell be dropping the puck on Saturday, Mr. Bernard said, adding he is honored to have the opportunity to work with both children.
He explained the teams relationship with Hunter came through Team Impact, a non-profit organization that pairs children with life-threatening illnesses with a college team in their area.
According to the a statement on the organziations website, Team Impact is a non-profit chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses. Core to our model is harnessing the power of teamwork by matching these courageous kids with college athletic teams. Team IMPACT children are drafted onto local college athletic teams and become an official member of the team for the duration of their treatment and beyond.
He said since Hunter was drafted by the team he has attended several games and practices, while also hanging out with the team in the locker room and becoming an honorary member of the team.
We have to do all that we can to support our local community, Mr. Bernard said. Were fortunate enough to be involved with college hockey and this is giving us the opportunity to see the impact it can have on the community.
Fans attending either game this weekend will have the opportunity to purchase a pin-up to be displayed on a larger poster throughout the weekend. All proceeds from pin-up sales will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Were just trying to raise awareness and collect some funds in honor of Hunter and Claire, Mr. Bernard said adding it is his hope to fill the bleachers at Massena Arena both nights and collect a sizeable donation for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
According to a press release from the college, cystic fibrosis is a life threatening disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
Progress is being made in the fight against cystic fibrosis. While Hunter and Claire appear to be very healthy children, they endure several treatments a day to maintain healthy lungs and digestion, the release states.
Hunter is the son of Marla and Chris Jacobs. Claire is the daughter of Chris and Jessica Nezezon.
On Friday the Bears (8-14-1) will be facing the Oswego State Lakers (20-3), who are the second ranked team in Division III collegiate hockey. On Saturday theyll be taking on SUNY Cortland (7-13-3). Mr. Bernard said the team finds themselves one win away from a birth in the SUNYAC playoffs, with a victory either night clinching a spot in the postseason.
The puck will drop at 7 p.m. both nights with tickets available at the door prior to each game.
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