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Mother of NHL hockey stars donates kidney to ice rink manager who gave her kids extra ice time

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Graham Nesbitt, left, received a donated kidney from Bonnie O'Reilly, right. Photo Source: Twitter: St. Louis Blues)
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Bonnie O’Reilly gives ‘gift of a lifetime’ to former manager of Seaforth, Ont., rink

Being a hockey mom is hard work. Being a hockey mom of two young boys takes all he help one can get.

Bonnie O’Reilly is one of those moms. Her two sons went on to be stars in NHL. Both of O’Reilly’s sons went on to play in the NHL. Ryan is the captain of the St. Louis Blues, and won the Stanley Cup with his team in 2019.

Ryan O’Reilly shares the Stanley Cup with his 99-year-old grandmother after winning the NHL championship in 2019. Ryan and his brother, Cal, were often given extra ice time by Nesbitt when they were young players. Ryan’s mother Bonnie donated a kidney to Nesbitt. Photo source: CBC News

Graham Nesbitt managed the local skating arena in Seaforth, Ontario, he routinely went above and beyond the call of duty—opening the rink early, staying late, and even in the face of snowstorms—to ensure neighborhood kids could get in as many hours on the ice as possible. Her other son, Cal, played for a few different NHL teams. But back when her NHL stars were just boys growing up in Seaforth, Ont., Graham Nesbitt was the local legend. 

As manager of the local arena in the community of roughly 3,000, located an hour north of London, Nesbitt would open the doors on snow days or after regular hours so many of local kids could skate and practise their beloved sport of hockey. 

“They’d call and say, ‘Is there any way we can get onto the ice before school?'” recalls Graham’s son, Joe Nesbitt. “He’d have the arena open at 6:30 a.m. so people could skate. He just wanted kids to be active and busy, not getting into trouble. It was his outlet as a kid and he wanted to pass it on.”

Now, for the special man who helped give her sons and so many others the gift of extra ice time, O’Reilly has given the assist of a lifetime. She has donated one of her kidneys to Nesbitt, 65.

In 2011, Nesbitt was diagnosed with Berger’s disease. Patients with the disease build up an antibody in the kidneys that over time can limit their ability to filter blood. Medication helped Nesbitt’s condition, but in 2019, his condition declined and he required a kidney transplant. 

Many in the the Seaforth area stepped up for Nesbitt, offering to become donors, including Nesbitt who was tested to be a suitable match.

‘My dad is just blown away by this’

“She says that ‘What you’ve done for my boys, helping them achieve their goal of playing professional hockey, it’s the least we can do,'” Joe Nesbitt, Graham’s son said, quoting O’Reilly. “My dad is just blown away by this.” 

To him, the donation is evidence of the special bond that often forms among hockey families. 

“You become more than just a team, you kind of become family,” Joe Nesbitt said. “It’s kind of left me speechless. 

“Something my dad’s always taught me is to be kind and helpful and generous to everybody,” he said. “It just goes to show that those thoughtful acts and caring for people, it pays off. It truly paid off for my dad and saved his life.”

Read the full story here.

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