BATTLEFORD — A special needs child from Battleford has lived her dream to see the Colorado Avalanche play in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money to send Elise Simard, age 12, from Saskatchewan to Denver to cheer on the Avalanche at Ball Arena.
According to the GoFundMe page set up by her mother Christy Simard, Elise has a special passion for hockey and in particular Avalanche player Alex Newhook.
She has followed his career ever since meeting him in spring of 2019 while playing in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies, and from there to Boston College, to the Colorado Eagles and then the NHL.
Elise was born at only two pounds at 26 week gestation, and has fought many health battles. She received a tracheotomy at four months old due to paralyzed vocal cords and spent her first 169 days in hospital. She has spent a large portion of time in ICU and dealt with numerous health challenges, but her mother stated on GoFundMe that Elise’s love of hockey has provided her with a sense of belonging, of team and support not found anywhere outside a rink.
The GoFundMe page was a success, exceeding the original $5,500 goal by raising $7,890 from 111 donors. As a result, Elise was able to head to Denver to see games one and two of the Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.
SASKTODAY.ca recently caught up with Christy Simard to find out about more about Elise’s trip. Christy replied that this was not Elise’s first time seeing the Avalanche play. She was gifted a weekend in Edmonton in April to see Alex Newhook play and it was her first time seeing him in person in four years.
“That trip is what started our journey to the playoffs games. We had a GoFundMe account started and it hit our goal in less than a week. There is no way we could have afforded this experience without it.”
Christy explained that Elise met Newhook in 2019 at a BCHL Junior A Grizzlies game.
“He gave her a fist bump through the glass and she was hooked. I took her to her first game on her birthday in Februrary 2019, and have gone to every game with her since.”
When Elise learned she would see the Avalanche play, her mom Christy said:
“I am not sure she really understood what we were going to experience, until we walked up to the arena. Honestly, it blew my mind. People were recognizing her and thanking us for making the trip. The community and Avs organization welcomed us with open arms.”
The two got to see Newhook, taking along some custom hand-crafted soaps to trade for autographs. Christy said Elise was excited to give their creations to the players.
A major highlight was attending the morning skate. Prior to playoff game one, Elise saw Newhook skate, and was able to chat with him and all the players while receiving autographs and photos.
Another highlight for Elise was going for ice cream with Newhook. All in all, the trip to Denver was a memorable experience for the young hockey fan.
“She loves the cheering and energy of the games, banging the glass as long as we let her. Unfortunately, Alex was a healthy scratch for the series. The only thing that could have made the trip better would have been seeing him play and score.”