When a sports franchise packs up its bags and decides to leave town, they usually leave all of their fans behind and leave the feeling of abandonment lingering throughout the city and through the hearts and minds of the once die-hard fans. However, when the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League packed up their bags at the end of the 2009-10 season and relocated to Charlotte to become the Charlotte Checkers, the organization did its best to help relocate one of their biggest fans along with the franchise.
Thanks to the help from charitable donations, fan support and the help from team partners and friends, the Charlotte Checkers were able to relocate Zach Bennett and his family to Charlotte from Albany, New York. Zach, who is an 11-year old boy suffering from neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1), was a former season ticket holder of the Albany River Rats and has established with his family, a close relationship with many current players on the Checkers. The team raised the money to not only move one of their dedicated fans to Charlotte to be with them, but to help Zach get the better medical care that is needed for his neurofibromatosis-1.
The Checkers, along with their NHL affiliate the Carolina Hurricanes, did whatever they could to help raise the money for Zach. The Checkers held a live post-game jersey auction; Facebook Fandemonium 2 – a social media program in which the Checkers donated $2 for every new “like” they received; a silent auction held by at the Carolina Hurricanes at their game on April 2, 2011; a future eBay auction of the Checkers’ black jerseys donated by Amtrak and fan donations.
When all the donations were in and the home was purchased, several partners of the Checkers joined the cause and donated materials to help make the necessary upgrades for handicap accessibility for Zach. Timberstone Homes volunteered time and resources to lead the reconstruction efforts and completely change the home around to meet the family’s needs. Husqvarna donated a riding lawn-mower, while AutoTrader.com donated the jerseys for the live auction that took place in January.
The team and partners did not only pay for the house and reconstruct it for the family to meet their needs; but they also covered the moving expenses for the family. Zach’s bedroom was decorated with a team photo, two hockey sticks placed over his bed with his nickname “BUG” spelled out on the wall and the players signed autographs on the wall directly beside his bed.
Zach has become real close with many players on the Checkers team in the past few years so for them to step up and do something like this, is something that no fan could have ever imagined. This time, the team stands behind the fan.
To learn more about neurofibromatosis-1, visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001850/
To learn more about the Charlotte Checkers organization, visit http://www.gocheckers.com/home/