Colorado has two universal truths. One, it’s a state full of people helping people, and two, most of those people love hockey. In a powerful combination of both, the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation helps those in the hockey community in times of crisis.
The foundation began in 2011, when three of founder and president Marty Richardson’s teammates were diagnosed with cancer within a 10-day period and another was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. A devastating blow to a small team, Richardson wanted to do something special for the players’ families. In creating Dawg Nation, Richardson began a nationwide, decade-long legacy of helping players in need—from tragic accidents to major health diagnoses. The organization recently celebrated its tenth anniversary Dawg Bowl—an annual hockey tournament fundraiser—raising $250,000 this year to total $1.9 million in funds raised for recipients since the charity’s founding.
PLAYERS FOR LIFE
As many know, unity runs deep in the hockey community. “Players might not know recipients, but they know tragedy,” says Executive Director Mike Freeman. “They know how to respond.” And while tragedy evokes kinship and support, organizations like Dawg Nation help tackle some of the more logistical obstacles—like medical bills. But more than that, it strives to create lasting relationships. “It’s about the money because that’s important, but it’s also how we walk alongside these folks in their time of need. How do you support them aside from a check? By keeping them connected and surrounded by community.”
Through events, auctions, and donations, Dawg Nation raises money to provide recipients with financial assistance, receiving one-to-two requests per week. Two of this year’s recipients include Tony Cozza and Dave Carr, both who were in life-altering auto accidents. “No one knows when tragedy is going to strike any locker room,” says Freeman. “Luckily, we have an organization that stands ready to help folks.”
Looking ahead, something extra special is in store for Dawg Nation—a three-sheet, totally handicap-accessible ice rink in Castle Pines. “We’re going to design it so that everybody has a first-class experience… Every piece is thought of and planned for,” explains Freeman, noting many Dawg Nation recipients are sled-hockey players and veterans. “It’s going to be an amazing gift. It has no impact on able-bodied athletes, but for [disabled athletes], it’s life-changing.”