Casey With Saku Koviu

Lifting Spirits for Casey

Lifting spirits for Casey – The Orange County Register

By JEFF MILLER

By JEFF MILLER
STAFF COLUMNIST
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

 

“I never dreamed this could grow into what it has grown into now,” Mary said. “By the end on Sunday, my cheeks hurt I was smiling so much. It was an amazing event.”

This year, they sold hats and T-shirts decorated with a wheeled logo and the words “Casey’s Wings,” the Detroit Red Wings being Casey’s favorite team. They cut hair for Locks of Love. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery showed up one day, sold nearly $1,000 worth of pizza, turned around and donated the money right back.

None of the Ducks players appeared, the team on the road at the time. But owner Henry Samueli was here, and how much more clout can a charity tournament have than a billionaire showing up just to have a look around?

Near one of the rinks, someone propped up a life-sized cutout of The World’s Most Interesting Man. Then, in thought bubble form, they wrote, “I don’t play hockey much, but when I do I play for Casey Strale.”

“He’s not here, but he is here,” Chris said of his first-born son. “His spirit’s here.”

To the cause, Chris gave his time, his effort and, listening to him talk on Sunday, his voice. It’s a lot of work helping stage a tournament that was supposed to be cut off at 90 teams but, with so many positive things going on, who could suddenly say “no”?

On Saturday, organizers presented scholarships to two of this year’s most inspiring volunteers. They also asked for a moment of silence for Casey.

The stillness was marked by the release of a bundle of red and white balloons – each carrying a handwritten message to Casey – and a giant Mylar “13,” his uniform number.

The balloons rose into the sky and then began drifting over the building, directly toward the Strales’ house six blocks away. Chris felt his knees noodle.

“He’s going home,” Chris remembered thinking. Then, he added, “I was a mess. I just grabbed my wife (Traci) and hung on.”

Shortly after Christmas, they will start preparing for next year’s Give Blood Play Hockey, 10 months in advance. The expectation is it will be the biggest one yet.

Casey certainly will do everything he can to make that happen.

“I’m humbled that he was my son,” Chris said. “Easy to let go? No. But I’m humbled. We’re humbled.”

You want to have a positive impact, lessen the suffering of others, make a difference? There couldn’t be a better time than right now. Why? Because we’re all still here.

Contact the writer: jmiller@ocregister.com