Fans of the Los Angeles Kings have donated thousands of dollars to a pediatric cancer charity in the name of a young Edmonton Oilers supporter, whose family says she was harassed at a playoff game between the two hockey teams last week.
Ten-year-old Cecily Eklund, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age six, was in Los Angeles for the game, the third in a first-round series. In a statement posted to social media, her family said what had started as a magical evening turned “scary and negative” after a Kings fan spat on and swore at Cecily for wearing an Oilers jersey.
Oilers forward Evander Kane has met Cecily several times and calls her a “dear friend.” He shared her story, sparking widespread outrage in the hockey world and beyond.
“For any young girl, especially someone battling cancer, to be treated in such a manner is pathetic,” he wrote on Instagram. “Grow up and, as this smart young lady always says, BE KIND!”
Cecily and her family raise money for the Ben Stelter Fund, which supports the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation in Edmonton. The fund aims to boost research into pediatric cancer, and pay for medical equipment and special experiences for children with severe illnesses. Ben, also an Oilers fan, died of brain cancer at age six last summer.
“As a warrior myself, I know what it means to fight like a kid, and kids shouldn’t have to fight so hard,” Cecily’s donation page on the hospital foundation’s website says. “Magical experiences are something that mean a lot to me. When you have the chance to do something fun instead of just hard things, it helps heal your heart.”
After news of the incident in Los Angeles began to make its way around the internet, a Kings fan posted a link to the donation page. Contributions began pouring in.
On Thursday night, the Eklund family said on social media that over $22,000 had been raised through the page over the previous two days, pushing Cecily past her $30,000 goal. That number continues to grow. As of Friday afternoon, it totalled more than $57,000.
“On behalf of all true L.A. Kings fans, we are so sorry for what you and your family endured. We are rooting for you Cecily,” reads one donation note on the page. Another says: “I’m a huge Kings fan, but some things are bigger than sports. I’ll root for you like I root for the Kings.”
The Kings offered to bring Cecily back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Saturday, but her family’s social media post said she wasn’t feeling well and was unable to travel. “However, her heart is full thanks to LA Kings fans and Edmonton Oilers fans coming together,” her family wrote.
Jeff Moeller, a spokesperson for the Kings, said in a statement that the team will donate proceeds from an auction during Game 6 to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
He added that a member of the team’s staff spoke with Cecily and her mother about the incident, which he called “unacceptable and abusive.”
Mr. Moeller added that there was no report made to security, which has made it difficult to gather any additional information.
“That being said, we were certainly concerned with behaviour of this nature and incident, assuming it was all true,” he said. “The LA Kings have never condoned fan behaviour of this nature and all fans should feel safe and welcomed at our games.”
The Eklund family did not respond to requests for comment.