Penguins always rally for causes
Last Modified: February 15. 2013 12:55PM
In his second season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Craig is now fully aware of how that popularity can be used to help others, whether raffling off jerseys to raise money for charity or rallying support for the military.
‚??I‚??ve never worn so many different jerseys in my life until I came to Wilkes-Barre,‚?Ě Craig said. ‚??It‚??s a great thing.‚?Ě
On Feb. 11, Craig and his Penguin teammates will hold a Thanks 4 Fighting Night to raise awareness of two diseases and funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
It‚??s a fight that has taken on special meaning for the Penguins, as one of their own is waging a battle against leukemia.
Chris Kobela, the Penguins season ticket sales executive, is currently in his second fight against the disease. He was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2008 and, after a three-and-a-half year battle that included chemotherapy, Kobela won the fight.
Last November, however, a blood test determined that the leukemia had returned, and Kobela would have to fight again.
This time, he has the Penguins on his side.
‚??It‚??s nice to see,‚?Ě Kobela said. ‚??With the Penguin players, you have the ability to reach the public and all the tools you need to raise money for a cause.‚?Ě
Thanks 4 Fighting Night will raise the bar when it comes to generating awareness and funds for the battle against leukemia and lymphoma, because it‚??s not just the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins pitching in, it‚??s the entire organization. The team will raffle off an autographed Mario Lemieux jersey after the game to benefit Angel 34, a national organization dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancers.
For Kobela, that‚??s what matters most.
‚??When I go to the hospital for my treatments, it‚??s sad seeing the children that have to go through the chemotherapy process and the families who have a hard time making ends meet,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I wanted to find a way to help.‚?Ě
So did the Penguins, just as they have for numerous causes this season. Two jersey auctions this season have raised $24,000, and the team has raised more than $80,000 for charitable causes through auctions and raffles.
The way Craig sees it; it‚??s all part of being a professional hockey player.
‚??It‚??s a big family in here and we all do what we can to help the team win,‚?Ě captain Ryan Craig said. ‚??But in the greater picture, whether it‚??s our military veterans or people with an illness fighting for their lives, we‚??ll do what we can to help those teams win as well.‚?Ě
Sometimes that means seeing rough and tumble hockey players doing some unordinary things, like using pink tape on their sticks and wearing pink jerseys on their backs.
The Penguins did just that on Jan. 7 when they teamed up with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The jerseys, as well as autographed pink pucks, were auctioned and sold at the end of the night to raise money for numerous charities.
Hockey players wearing pink? The Penguins did it with pride.
‚??It‚??s not something that normally happens, but you see guys stepping out of their comfort zone more to support a cause,‚?Ě Craig said. ‚??As players, we understand that the jerseys that we wear on a particular night can be used to raise money for some great causes.
‚??Anytime we‚??re asked to give back or donate some time for a cause, our guys jump at the chance.‚?Ě
The Penguins do it because while the generosity provides a needed benefit to the causes they are supporting, such acts also mean a lot to the players themselves.
‚??It doesn‚??t matter if you‚??re a pro athlete or whatever, these things can happen to anyone,‚?Ě said Penguins forward Geoff Walker. ‚??Anytime there‚??s a chance to do something to help support those people, I‚??ll take that opportunity every time.
‚??You sometimes wish you could do more.‚?Ě
The way Kobela sees it, the Penguins are doing plenty. Being able to lend a hand in the preparations for the Thanks 4 Fighting Night has given Kobela a welcome respite from a daily routine of treatments at the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.
Working for the Penguins and helping with the Thanks 4 Fighting Night has allowed Kobela to maintain a sense of normalcy in his life.
‚??At the end of the day, sometimes I am tired and I do feel weak,‚?Ě he said. ‚??There are times I‚??d rather lay down on the couch, but I don‚??t. That‚??s not who I was before I was sick.‚?Ě
And that‚??s why the Penguins are eager to help pick up the fight.
‚??Whether it‚??s a breast cancer survivor coming out to drop the puck, the military nights or someone in our front office that‚??s fighting, you see the strength that these people have. These are stories that are real-life,‚?Ě Craig said. ‚??We play hockey for a living and we‚??re very lucky to be able to do that, but those who are dealing with these things and fighting these illnesses, they‚??re the people we really should look up to.‚?Ě