University City

Hemby Cup celebrates 10th anniversary on ice

When event leaders organized the first Hemby Cup charity hockey game in 2001, they were optimistic they could raise $5,000 for the Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital.

The event tripled its goal.

Now the Hemby Cup is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The youth tournament runs through Feb. 20 and organizers anticipate this year's total will reach $100,000.

Over a decade the effort has raised more than $800,000.

The money has been used to help construct or purchase amenities at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital and Blume Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic.

The money has paid for an outdoor playground on the children's floor of the hospital, game systems in every room, medical equipment and an arts program.

This past year, the Hemby Cup, whose charitable arm operates through the Presbyterian Foundation, added the year-old Charlotte Ronald McDonald House and Belmont's Holy Angels, which supports individuals with developmental delays, as beneficiaries.

Money raised during its October events helped the Hemby Cup purchase a van to transport patients and their families from the Ronald McDonald House to Presbyterian and the Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center.

Charity's beginnings

Tom DeFeo, a national director for Microsoft, organized the first Hemby Cup event after participating in similar events in Seattle, Wash.

He's a Pennsylvanian and hockey enthusiast.

DeFeo says he approached the Charlotte Checkers minor-league hockey team, which was already a partner with Presbyterian Hospital, about organizing a charity game. DeFeo coordinated a matchup between Microsoft employees and policemen at the Checkers' then-home arena, which is now Bojangles Coliseum.

Ten years later

The annual game, now played at Time Warner Cable Arena, has always been scheduled for an afternoon prior to a Checkers home game.

Youth patients serve as honorary captains and get to skate around the ice before the game. Those in attendance get to attend the day's Checkers game for free.

"There was a little girl named Haley," said DeFeo. "... At the time, she had been through six or seven brain surgeries. She was an amazing little girl.

"She was always happy and it was amazing, the sense of courage you got from her. We skated around the ice. There have been many stories like that, the kids we've met over the years."

Fundraising continues

Fundraising efforts have included everything from selling tickets and T-shirts for the event to leaders hosting a dodge ball tournament. While most of the money raised over the years has come through these grassroots efforts, DeFeo says Microsoft and Bank of America have supported those endeavors with matching grants.

In 2010, as the adult players' bodies started tiring, the Hemby Cup temporarily became a youth hockey tournament. After a one-year hiatus, the adult game returned in October 2011 as part of the 10th anniversary celebration.

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