Famed and beloved Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes is a legend in the sports world for many reasons, most notably his impressive coaching career that included five National Championships and two National Coach of The Year awards. However, Buckeyes around the world hold Hayes close to their heart for two polar opposite sentiments- his hatred for long-time Ohio State rival, The University of Michigan, and his love of and dedication to “paying it forward.” Famously quoted as saying, “You can never pay back, so you should always try to pay forward,” Hayes was a man of his word; he gave this advice to thousands of students and players over the years, while always leading by example. His genuine belief in the value of kindness and the act of giving back, despite his intense competitive nature, is an amazing example of the positive impact athletes can have on the world outside of their given sport. Last week, the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene proved to be a modern example of the love and kindness that can come from the sports world when an athlete remembers to pay it forward.
Regardless of the unfortunate news stories that surface too regularly, athletes give back to their communities in major ways each and every day. Matt Duchene however, went above and beyond the call of duty while attending the Minden Flood Relief Golf Tournament and auction near his hometown of Haliburton, Canada. After lending his famous name to the cause and making his own donation towards the relief efforts, the Avalanche centre jumped in to ensure that a father was able to win the bidding war on a Boston Bruins jersey for his daughter. However, it wasn’t just any jersey and it certainly wasn’t just any daughter.
11-year old Trista Greer is a “happy go lucky little girl who seldom (if ever) awakes without a smile on her face,” said her father Wayde. The fun-loving fifth grader was even elected president of the student council and has always been eager to participate. However, the last few weeks of school took their toll on her; Greer was bullied harshly, culminating in a half day spent in the bathroom crying. With her parents by her side, providing love, support and anti-bullying strategies, she made it through some tough days but, her positive and upbeat spirit was slightly crushed. Greer’s father knew he wanted to do something to put that beautiful smile back on her face and, lucky for her, his job afforded him the opportunity to do just that.
Wayde Greer happened to be assigned to handle the media for the Minden Flood Relief Charity Golf Tournament. Prior to the event, he got wind that a Zdeno Chara signed Boston Bruins jersey would be up for auction. Considering his daughter is arguably one of the Bruins’ biggest fans, with an autographed Zdeno Chara photograph hanging proudly above her bed, he knew the piece of memorabilia would serve as the ultimate birthday gift, lifting her spirits after the rough patch she experienced at the end of the school year. Quickly, Greer rallied the troops, asking family and friends to donate birthday money to the cause, and he was not disappointed with their generosity. With $500 in hand, he headed to the charity event with high hopes of owning the sought after auction item.
Unfortunately, Greer saw his hopes quickly slip away when the bidding for the Bruins jersey started at $300. He was about to succumb to the disappointment of going home without the prize, after he nervously placed his last bid at $800, when Duchene stepped in to help him win the bidding war. The NHL star leaned over and whispered to Greer from across the table, “Get it for her. I’ver got you covered!” With little time to fully consider the offer, Greer jumped back into the action. As the price continued to escalate, the again hopeful father looked over at Duchene with every bid and he simply continued to nod his head. As the auction price reached $1,600 Duchene again leaned over and held up two fingers, signaling Greer to bid $2,000. The new bid, four times over Greer’s original maximum, roused a “SOLD!” from the auctioneer. Thanks to Duchene, the jersey was Greer’s to take home to his little girl.
To top it all off, when Greer was able to deliver the signed jersey to his daughter for her birthday, it was accompanied by a card that read, “Happy Birthday Trista, from your friend Matt Duchene.” As Trista’s father pointed out in an article he wrote for the Minden Times, we must all realize that this isn’t a story about money, fame or who you know. It is a story about a young man who made an impact on a child’s life; a story about a very fortunate athlete who, as Woody Hayes would say, decided to pay it forward. The world can now see that Duchene’s intense competitive nature inside the arena is only matched by his kindness off the ice, a combination that should be celebrated and encouraged.
Happy belated birthday to Trista Greer! And thank you, Matt Duchene, for being a genuinely lovely example of the positivity that comes from giving back, from paying it forward. Trista, I certainly hope you go back to school with your head held high, ready to take on the world with your wonderful smile. After all, not everyone can say they have Matt Duchene on their team but, you most definitely do!
Feature Image via Minden Times