You give your cause its own life by honoring someone who had his taken away.
If only we all could make so much good happen, while we’re still here.
“When he was diagnosed and he was dying,” said Chris Strale, Casey’s father, “I believe he was touched and given a mission, and he fulfilled his mission.”
Casey died in June, the cancer finally winning out. At his memorial service here – at The Rinks-Irvine – Casey’s urn was passed, from one of his former teammates to the next, until it ended up in the hands of his little brother, Kyle.
Kyle bent down and placed Casey’s remains inside a goal.
So they gathered here again last weekend, for the annual Give Blood Play Hockey, an in-line event founded by another kid. Mary Quayle was 16 when she decided she wanted to celebrate the memory of her grandfather.
He must have been quite a man.
In the seven years since, Mary’s little tournament has raised a quarter of a million dollars for CHOC Children’s, funding a nurses station and a patient room on the hospital’s oncology floor. They have drawn more than 1,300 pints of blood.
“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.
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