Sunday, 15 June 2008

Charitable Donations: Steadfast Foundation

Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to present another excellent charitable organization today. With the rate of cancer on the rise, there are a number of foundations out there that are working to try to stop the rate of growth while researching ways to help end the afflictions. Perhaps where this is most noticeable is in organizations that are working to end childhood cancer and helping those families who have been affected by this disease. With that in mind, Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to present the Steadfast Foundation started by the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller. Founded in 2006, Ryan and his father, Dean, decided to try and help as many families as possible in battling childhood cancer after they encountered their own battle with the disease.

Mission Statement: "The Steadfast Foundation is dedicated to assisting those afflicted and affected by the consequences of cancer, and especially childhood forms of the disease". The goal of the Steadfast Foundation is to use the foundation's "resources to provide patients and their families support to help improve their circumstances and attitude and give them the best environment and a better ability to battle the disease".

How Did The Steadfast Foundation Start?: I'll allow Ryan Miller to explain how the foundation got started in his own words.

"Each year cancer strikes too many people, including thousands of children and young adults. Last year my 17 year-old cousin, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia bringing a terrifying reality to the forefront of my family’s life.

"Through his experiences I have gained a new perspective and understanding of what a young person goes through while fighting a disease. In response I felt compelled to help raise awareness and resources that would help mitigate the 'Battle' that so many face. This is why I have created The Steadfast Foundation, a non-profit corporation, with a mission to provide benefit to those in need in and around the communities of Lansing, Michigan and Buffalo, New York.

"Through the Steadfast Foundation I am reaching out to make the public aware of our efforts to provide much needed support and resources to those suffering the ill-effects and life-altering consequences of cancer, especially all forms of childhood leukemia. The Steadfast Foundation’s philosophy is that communities can mobilize to generate those resources.

"Our goal is to provide patients and their families support to help develop and maintain positive attitudes and help nurture an environment conducive to effectively battling the disease and dealing with challenging circumstances with as little pain as possible."

Now I know very little about cancer, aside from it being a very serious disease. Childhood leukemia is an acute cancer, meaning it develops extremely quickly. About 98% of childhood leukemia diagnoses are classified as acute. According to the KidsHealth website, "leukemias account for about 25% of all childhood cancers and affect about 2,200 American young people each year".

As we saw with the Team25 Children's Foundation, people who have Ataxia Telangiectasia have a higher chance of being afflicted with leukemia. However, there are a number of genetic afflictions that can increase one's chance of getting cancer, especially at a younger age. Clearly, this is a serious problem, and the Steadfast Foundation is working towards finding a solution to help families who are battling this disease.

The Steadfast Foundation has partnered with some very good organizations to help children in both Lansing, Michigan and Buffalo, New York. The foundation helped with funding for the Michigan State University Children's Health Initiative in Lansing, the Children's Miracle Network, and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. The Steadfast Foundation hasn't done this on their own, though. Through the generous donations of their sponsors, the Steadfast Foundation has been able to help children in these two great American cities much more than doing everything on their own.

Sadly, Matt Schoals, Ryan Miller's cousin, passed away in October of 2007 from the disease. Matt had been diagnosed with childhood leukemia at the age of 16 in December 2005. Matt had helped Ryan design his new mask for the 2007-08 season, and Ryan wanted to honour his courageous cousin in this fight. Miller has previously worn a printed "Matt Man" sticker in honour of Matt Schoals on his old mask as inspiration and a living tribute to Matt's battle, but had it updated on the Schoals-designed mask on the new backplate, incorporating the bulldog as a symbol of Matt's fight. Bulldogs were Matt's favourite breed of dog. Things looked up when Matt received a bone marrow transplant, but that very transplant turned against Matt at the age of 18. He passed away in early October of 2007 cancer-free, but a victim of Graft-Versus-Host Disease. In keeping with honouring his cousin, Ryan Miller included the picture of the bulldog that became so closely associated with Matt on the mask he wore to the Winter Classic this past season.

Rest in peace, Mr. Schoals. You're an inspiration to me for the courageous battle you fought and the disease you defeated.

How Can I Help?: Like the other organizations I've written about, the Steadfast Foundation will gladly accept donations. If you would like to donate, I encourage you to contact the Steadfast Foundation via email at info-at-thesteadfastfoundation-dot-com, or to contact them via snail mail at:

Dean E. Miller
P.O. Box 77
East Lansing, MI 48826

They are also selling Buffalo Sabres sockey caps, which are hockey socks turned into toques, on their website, but the order form seems to be out-of-order. In that case, just email them at the link above. Also, you can volunteer to help the Steadfast Foundation. Just email them with the subject line of "I Want To Volunteer", and they'll get you set up. Lastly, they do hold events as well, so I recommend you check out that page for any new developments. There are lots of ways you can help, and not all of them require you to spend any money.

The Steadfast Foundation, the NHLPA, and Ryan Miller are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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