by Chris Wescott || AHL On The Beat Archive
Oklahoma City Barons defenseman Bryan Helmer is a lot of things.
He’s an American Hockey League record setter, a team captain, a husband and a father.
His leadership and work ethic on the ice is matched only by his compassion off of it.
A perfect example of his contributions off the ice is a little known program called Helmer’s Heroes.
Helmer’s Heroes is a way for Bryan to give back to some very special kids who inspire him every day.
“It started back in Grand Rapids,” Helmer said. “When my daughter (Rylan) was born she had a blood disorder. She had to have a blood transfusion and being in the hospital and seeing young kids battle through different illnesses and just to see that…
“This one kid was going through cancer, chemo and he was playing with my daughter and my son and had a smile on his face. Just to see that, I said to my wife afterwards, ‘We need to do something here.’”
With that, Helmer’s Heroes was born. That year, Helmer purchased two season tickets to Grand Rapids Griffins games and gave them to the hospital. When kids got better, Helmer would invite the children to attend a game. To make it more special, the kids who attended the game would meet the defenseman afterwards, visit the dressing room and be a part of the team.
It is a tradition that Helmer carried with him to San Antonio, to Hershey and now to Oklahoma City.
In years past, Helmer has purchased season seats himself. This season, the Barons are partnering with Buffalo Wild Wings in order to keep Helmer’s Heroes going strong.
“They stepped up big time. (Buffalo Wild Wings) purchased the tickets, we’re going to have actual hockey pucks with Helmer’s Heroes on it and their logo and the Barons’ logo to give to the kids when they come down to meet me.
“It’s a good cause. It makes me feel honored to do something like that. To have Buffalo Wild Wings to step up and purchase those tickets is pretty good. Hopefully everything will go well here, hopefully the kids will enjoy it and come down and meet me after games and we’ll have some fun with it.
Helmer’s daughter Rylan is now six years old and since her transfusion has not had any symptoms, according to her father. But he still feels a connection to other children stricken by illness even today.
All the kids that Helmer has met since starting this initiative have left an impression on him. One of the most memorable of Helmer’s Heroes is Garett from Grand Rapids.
“His spine was in the shape of a question mark,” Helmer recalled. “He wasn’t growing. Just a great kid, he had a great personality, upbeat, he loved to take pictures and we formed a good bond. I haven’t talked to him in a few years but we kept in touch after I left Grand Rapids. He’s doing better, he had a lot of surgeries, he went through a lot and he’s doing well now.
“A kid like that is the reason I’m doing this.”