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Connor McDavid visits Edmonton school where students raised money in memory of Ben Stelter

He is normally known for creating excitement in hockey arenas but on Friday, NHL superstar Connor McDavid generated cheers in a school gymnasium in Edmonton as he congratulated students on their work to support an organization he has a special bond with.

The Edmonton Oilers captain showed up to speak to students at Nellie Carlson School, one of several city schools that took part in a fundraising campaign for the Ben Stelter Foundation.

The organization was named after Ben Stelter, a six-year-old Oilers superfan who developed a bond with McDavid and other Oilers before losing his life to cancer. The foundation raises money to provide special experiences for children living with cancer, to help families with medical equipment needs at their homes and more.

“Kids raising money for kids is a beautiful thing,” McDavid told Global News after addressing the students. “It’s an amazing thing that they did. It shows great leadership.

“It’s obviously a cause that’s close to my heart.”

Students at the school in southwest Edmonton’s MacTaggart neighbourhood raised $15,000 for the foundation as part of the campaign.

“Over the last three or four weeks, we’ve had a fundraiser to raise money for the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Ben Stelter Foundation, and in doing so, a number of schools were involved,” said school principal Henry Madsen.

“Nellie Carlson was the one able to raise the most amount of money. All schools were in a draw for a visit from Connor McDavid to celebrate and to let the kids know how they did.”

Ben’s father, Mike Stelter, was also at the school on Friday.

“Some of our favourite fundraisers are kids raising money for kid,” he said. “I know how special it is for kids in hospital knowing that kids outside are raising money and thinking about them.”

In July, Mike Stelter revealed he had also been diagnosed with cancer. On Friday, he said he had recently returned from treatment in the United States and was feeling good.

McDavid said Ben Stelter’s impact continues to be felt to this day.

“How much energy he brought … It’s still rubbing off on everyone,” he said.

McDavid allowed students to ask him questions in the gym, ranging from what other sports he likes to play to who his favourite hockey player was as a child to whether he thinks the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup this year, a question he answered with a sense of hope.

“I think we’ve got a really good team and we’re starting to put it together and I like the feeling in the (locker-)room,” he told the students. “I like the way the game looks on the ice.

“I feel like we’re building something special here.”

With a smile on his face, McDavid told Global News after that he has “learned to never be surprised” by questions youngsters will ask him.

“It meant a lot,” he said of meeting with the students. “Just to see their excitement. Lots of Oiler jerseys — that’s always nice but obviously remembering what we’re here for.

“They did such an amazing job raising money … This was kind of the reward. It was fun to be here.”

Madsen said he was “very proud” of the school’s students and noted learning is not just about academic endeavours, but also “the part about caring and being a part of the community.”

“I think it means that the world is in for a great future — kids that really care about those less fortunate than they are,” he said of what the students accomplished. “They dug deep and were involved in a lot of different fundraising.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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