Organization in memory of hockey great brightens lives of hospitalized children
The tragedy that struck our nation on September 11, 2001 will forever be ingrained in our memory. Our hearts are heavy when recalling the events of that fateful day and the days that followed. Those days were characterized by grief, suffering, and pain.
Now, the days that pass without remembering our fallen heroes are few and far between.
For the family of Garnet “Ace” Bailey, every single day is a tribute to Ace, a time to honor his memory.
Ace played eleven seasons with the National Hockey League. He was a member of the Stanley Cup championship teams in 1969-70 and 1971-72 while playing with the Boston Bruins. He went on to play for the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues, the Washington Capitals and the Edmonton Oilers. When Ace’s playing career ended following the 1979-80 season, he moved first to coaching and then to scouting. Ace earned seven Stanley Cup Rings in his roles as player and then scout.
On September 11, 2001, while working as the director of pro scouting for the Los Angeles Kings, Ace Bailey boarded United Airlines Flight 175, heading to Los Angeles for the Kings training camp. His plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Ace was gone at the young age of 53.
The sadness that would overwhelm the Bailey family, as well as the families of others killed in the attacks on our country, was unlike any other. Ace left behind his wife, Kathy, and their son, Todd.
But the Bailey family quickly turned their efforts to honoring Ace’s memory.
In January 2002, the Ace Bailey Foundation was established. Those who knew Ace were well aware of his fondness for children and their happiness. The Foundation focuses on the well-being of hospitalized children through the building and renovation of hospital environments that improve the family-centered and softer side of hospital care.
The Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston is the recipient of their funding. Last week I got to see for myself the incredible work and results of the Ace Bailey Foundation.
I first became involved in the organization four years ago when my colleague and broadcast partner, Gord Kluzak, had a last-minute cancellation to emcee the Ace Bailey Foundation’s annual Face Off for Ace event. He recommended that they call me for a last minute fill-in.
Boy did I walk in at the right time!
Not only was the room filled with New England sports legends: former Boston Bruins Ray Bourque, John Bucyk, Ted Donato, Rick Middleton, Mike Milbury, Jay Miller, Barry Pederson, Rick Smith, Boston College’s Jerry York, Boston University’s Jack Parker, to name a few, but none other than the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky was the special guest.
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to be around some pretty incredible people. But never have I been in a room of legends where the goal is all the same- to raise money in honor of their dear friend, a man who touched so many lives and whose laughter would fill an entire rink.
After four years of being a part of such a wonderful evening as the event emcee, I realized it was time to actually go visit the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and see the amazing progress that the Ace Bailey Foundation has achieved.
I met Kathy Bailey, Ace’s widow, and her sister, Barbara Pothier, the executive director of the foundation at the hospital. They first took me to Ace’s Place, a play center designed to help to reduce the stress of hospitalization for children from toddlers to teens. Now, as you can imagine, a week before Christmas Ace’s Place was packed with toys for little girls and boys. In addition to the packaged gifts, there were board games, a wall of children’s books, my favorite: a giant air hockey table, a juke box, a wooden train track set, painting and coloring supplies. You name it, they got it! It was a child’s dream-room-come-true, made better by benefiting a child who is battling a terrible fight.
We then transitioned down a few levels to the renovation of the Tufts-Floating Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Foundation’s latest completed project. The Floating’s NICU achieves some of the best outcomes in the country for high-risk newborns. Through the “Family Care Project”, Ace Bailey’s Foundation has renovated and updated the NICU to provide a comfortable and soothing space for families to bond with their hospitalized babies.
At the end of my visit, Kathy and Barbara showed me their latest project: areas in the hospital for two new “Ace’s Place” facilities that will provide spaces for children to play during visits to Tufts Medical Center’s Pediatric Emergency Department.
I was so happy to finally see with my own two eyes the fruit of their labor. The Ace Bailey Foundation has worked hard over the years to improve the hospital for children and their families while honoring Ace.
I got in my car to leave that day and thought to myself, “Wow. If Ace were here to see this place, he would be so proud.”
I have no doubt he’s smiling down on their hard work. I have no doubt that had he lived longer, he may have just done this all himself. I have no doubt that every single child that enters that hospital is grateful for the vision that Ace’s family had back in 2002.
And just like I was inspired and happy on my own visit, so too are the many people who benefit from the Ace Bailey Foundation.
For more information on this year’s “Face Off for Ace” event, featuring special guest Mark Messier, and the foundation, please visit www.acebailey.org.