Havoc players and St. Jude patients create works of art

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville Havoc hockey players recently traded the pads and pucks for brushes and palettes full of paint. Pinot's Palette in Providence was the perfect place to pair players and patients. The team spent an afternoon with children undergoing treatment at the St. Jude Clinic at Huntsville Hospital.

They were creating the perfect pairing of paintings to auction for St. Jude Night with the Huntsville Havoc next month. It's a time for the kids and their families to forget if only for a moment the journey they’re facing. And its eye-opening for the players.

Rookie defenseman Derek Perl said, “It just gives you a bigger picture for what’s going on in the world.” And in this world, that means kids get sick too. “Just to give back and help and put a smile on other people’s faces, it’s just a good feeling for everyone,” Perl added.

Watching the precision splattering of paint on a canvas by flicking the brush bristles and the careful placement of brush strokes creating a work of art that will hang on a wall was as artful as a player moving a puck down the ice and scoring a goal.

There’s one thing you can’t capture on canvas though. You should have seen the looks the kids were giving the guys. And there were sweet moments like the one where a player helped a young girl with her cupcake. There were shared instances of time frozen forever between the paired painters.

Six-year-old Cole Kelley of Florence may have just found a new best friend in Derek Perl. The Mars Hill Bible School student said he had a lot of fun. Cole has Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare blood disorder. He was diagnosed when he was only two months old. He comes to the clinic every two or three weeks to get blood. He just got his 100th transfusion.

But on this one afternoon, Cole and the other kids forgot about their battles and launched into creating an out of this world painting to raise money to help the clinic that is helping them. When I asked Cole what he’d painted, he smiled and said, “A moon, and a rocket ship and an astronaut.” It was perfect!

So when the puck drops on their big night with the Havoc, “You’re not just playing for yourself,” Derek said. “It’s for everyone around you, the whole community.” And the guys will be playing just a little bit harder for their new little friends. Derek said, “As long as they’re smiling, we’re happy, right?”

The paintings will be part of a silent auction at the game March 3. And after the game, the players and team mascots Chaos and Rukus will auction their special jerseys to raise even more money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Von Braun Center Propst Arena.