HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The VBC has been home ice for the Huntsville Havoc since 2004. Team owners, Becky and Keith Jeffries started giving back to the community from that first season. “We have the greatest fans that any organization like this could have,” Becky told me, “They have supported us always.”
The Havoc hosted special nights where players game worn jerseys were auctioned off to raise money for non-profits. That list has grown to more than 12 now. One of them is the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund benefitting the regional neonatal intensive care unit at Huntsville Hospital.
All Chris and Amy George hoped for that first year, was to raise enough money to buy a special bed for the unit. Becky remembers Amy making a call. “I don’t know who she was on the phone with but she said order it. We have the money,” Becky recalled.
Minutes later, the news got even better. “She picked up the phone and said, we can order another one. Order another one and she was just sobbing,” Becky added, “And she said I would have never thought that this would have been possible just in one night to be able to have that much money to get two beds for that unit.”
The Havoc and their fans are close to raising $800,000 for the unit. “They just open their wallets, and they give lovingly, and it has just helped our community and we are thrilled to be able to do that for the community,” Becky said with a smile.
Melissa George night later became personal to the Jeffries. “Our granddaughter was in the NIC unit,” Becky told me. So were several other family members. They felt good about where their granddaughter was. “I felt very relaxed and confident when my daughter called and said Alana was put in the NIC unit,” Becky continued, “I felt very confident she was going to be taken well care of, not only for the staff but because of the equipment that we and our fans had helped raise for that NIC unit.”
Their family was on the receiving end of the generosity of Havoc fans too. “Absolutely,” Keith told me, “And we know so many people whose families have benefited from it and we get to meet these families that are the feature family every year and their stories are pretty impressive.”
It’s a community effort. “It’s not us. We’re not rich. We’re not the ones who are donating these 10, 20, 50, 60-thousand-dollar chunks. It’s our fans who are,” Keith said, “We are providing the opportunity and maybe we provide some support and jerseys and a little money but the vast majority of it comes from the fans themselves.
Several years ago, the players started visiting the NICU before the big game. Becky wanted them to see what they were playing for on Melissa George night. “It would be beneficial I think for them to understand what the night is really all about,” she said, “Somebody can tell you but when you see it, it’s much different. And they went up there and they were just amazed, and they played so hard that night.”
The boys may not always win the game, but Becky added, “They know what they’re playing for. And they may play just a little bit harder. “Oh yeah, 100 percent,” Keith said smiling, “I know it does cause there’s an extra little bit of jam when they hit there.”
The puck drops for Melissa George Night with the Huntsville Havoc Saturday, February 4th at 7 pm at Propst Arena. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game. You can also drop off donations for the NICU on your way into the game. This year, the unit is requesting gift cards for food, gas, and restaurants, individually wrapped snacks, Keurig coffee pods, infant clothes and blankets.