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Donor clinic part of Hockey Gives Blood

Woolwich Minor Hockey’s U9 Major LL team practices at the Woolwich Memorial Centre Tuesday evening. [Damon MacLean]

There’s much less going on at the arenas, but the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association (WMHA) is staying busy with the Hockey Gives Blood partnership with Canadian Blood Services.

The hockey organization is hosting a blood drive of its own on November 24. The all-day event will take place at Lions Hall in Elmira.

WMHA registrar Donna Harrington says the team has done drives in the past, but this is the first time they will participate in the Hockey Gives Blood program.

Stu Middleton, the president of Hockey Gives Blood, created the program alongside former junior hockey teammate Tanner Murray. Middleton drew on his personal experience with tragedy as well as the Humboldt Broncos incident as the inspiration for the initiative.

“My dad was killed in a car accident travelling to one of my games when I was playing junior hockey. I found out about the accident when I was in the dressing room, packing my bags to see my team, and then ultimately learned of his death away from home. Out of that experience, I received tremendous support from my teammates and my community. But ultimately, I felt no difference ever came from the death of my dad: he was hit by a semi-truck passing on the wrong side of the highway. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Middleton explained.

That incident from Jan. 8, 2000, when he was 18 years of age, was top of mind on Apr. 6, 2018 when a truck smashed into the team bus of the Humboldt Broncos in Saskatchewan, killing 16 people.

“I reflected on my own personal experience and just imagined if nothing ever good came from that situation. So with my dad in mind and the experience that I went through, I co-founded Hockey Gives Blood with a former teammate of mine who was with me when my dad passed away,” said Middleton.

Since then, the organization has grown to a nationwide presence, with support from NHLers such as Sidney Crosby and Ryan O’Reilly.

Today, the organization continues its work despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a lot more restricting working in a COVID environment, but the need for blood is still high,” he said. “Canadian Blood Services still offer a safe, highly sanitized donation centre with proper COVID protocols in place for people to donate safely at all times.”

Middleton says the work of Hockey Gives Blood has been satisfying, particularly in seeing young players get on board with the effort.

“It took me 37 years to realize how important blood donation was – that’s how old I was when I got started. So, seeing the younger generation, talking and sharing and creating awareness at this young age is really what’s inspiring to me, because that’s something from a personal level that I never did,” he said. “The more people we can encourage to do that at that young age certainly gives a better chance of becoming a lifelong donor to support Canadian Blood Services.”

Middleton said he encourages everyone over the age of 17 to come out to a local event or book an appointment online.

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