The Huntsville Havoc is hosting its 13th annual Melissa George Night on Saturday, February 2, at the Von Braun Center. In preparation for this event, the entire Havoc team went on a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital; and come to find out, a few of the players have a personal connection to this type of care.
The Havoc's goalie, Max Milosek, was born premature and had to spend some time in the NICU when he was first born.
Another teammate, center Colton Wolter, and his identical twin brother were born two months premature, one weighing around four pounds and the other weighing around two pounds.
For these two rookies, a first time trip to the NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children meant seeing firsthand what their first living moments were like.
"It puts it into perspective," Milosek said. "It's pretty crazy to see and I'm just thankful that I'm here."
Woltor said he felt a whole wave of emotions walking into the NICU for the first time.
"Right away, it made me think of my parents and what they must have been feeling like," Woltor said.
Now, as professional hockey players, Milosek and Wolter get to help raise money for babies just like them.
"For me, it's kind of like I'm telling them to keep fighting on and to keep battling, and you know, make it through it and hopefully they can get through it and it will be good. I'm happy that it's coming full swing and give back to it," Milosek said.
The Havoc is giving back to a foundation that hits close to the Tennessee Valley, the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.
"We're in the business I'd say of trying to get babies home to mom and dad and we're fortunate enough that we live in a caring community that believes in what we're doing and what Melissa's fund stands for and giving those opportunities to parents to maybe come home with their baby a little earlier," Co-Founder of the fund, Chris George, said.
The fund is through the Huntsville Hospital Foundation and has raised more than $3.2 million since its creation in 2005.
For the Havoc players, it makes them realize the annual night they have in honor of Melissa George is bigger than the game of hockey itself.
"You know, hockey and the hockey players in the community are always trying to give back and help other people out," Milosek said. "I think coming here and seeing it first hand and playing the game is really going to help a lot of people out."
Wolter said this gives them a little extra motivation to compete on Saturday, "you wanna do good and obviously help out as much as you can around here, and for us, that means having a good weekend and winning and helping out in the way we can."
The Havoc have been raising money for the fund since 2006, and they've raised almost $600,000. Tickets are still available for Saturday's game. The first 1,000 fans who bring an item for the NICU parent waiting room will receive a commemorative coffee tumbler.
Requested items for the waiting room:
- Keurig K-Cups
- Board games
- Adult coloring books
- Individually wrapped snacks
- Restaurant gift cards
- Gas gift cards
- Monetary donations for parking tokens
- Preemie/newborn clothing