Orange and Black Pack

Kaylin’s tale; A story that transcends hockey, buyouts, and disappointing seasons

Kaylin thanks Orange and Black Pack

For the Flyers and many of their fans, this shortened 2013 season came as much of a disappointment.  A campaign filled with ebbs and flows of joy and heartache left us, in the end, with nothing but bitter disappointment.  But for myself and my fellow co-writers, this season will go down as one of the most memorable for one single, joyous moment in a little girl’s life.

Kaylin Kegel is a vibrant and amazing girl.  She gives new meaning to the phrase “light up a room”.   Amidst all her fervor for life, a battle ensues.  Kaylin not only struggles with Autism, but she was born with a rare muscular disease that causes her to be undersized for her age.  Unfortunately, in the cruel world we live in, this causes Kaylin to be ridiculed.  

Her refuge?  Flyers hockey.

The Flyers have become a staple in her family that helps her escape the stresses of being subjected to senseless bullying.  She has found solace in her role model, Danny Briere.

Briere has fought a similar battle.  He was told his entire life he was too small to play the rugged game of hockey.  Through perseverance and dedication, Danny has overcome the naysayers and has made a fine career in the NHL.  Danny has become an inspiration to Kaylin, and is someone that she can identify with.

Kaylin watched Briere in admiration from afar as many of us do with our heroes.  When Orange and Black Pack founder, Michael DeNicola, saw the pictures of Kaylin and her family at their first Flyers game ever, and heard her story, the wheels of inspiration began turning.  He contacted the rest of us and told us his plan.  

Since April was Autism awareness month, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make one of Kaylin’s dreams come true.  Mike set in motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to Kaylin meeting her hero and inspiration.

Before her family headed to the Wells Fargo center to take in a game against the Devils, Kaylin sent us a little thank you —

Get regular hockey updates to your inbox

If that didn’t bring a tear to your eye, you might want to check your pulse. 

Soon after the game ended, Mike, along with Kaylin and her family descended into the bowels of the arena to meet with her long-time hero.

**The following is a testimony from Michael DeNicola**

So, the game’s result did not end the way we all wanted it to, but to be honest…. a win or loss was only secondary to the true reason I had attended the tilt. 

When the 3rd period came to a close, my evening had just begun.

I met Kaylin and her mother Angie out in the concourse where our passes were shown to security, and we were escorted downstairs to the Lexus Club, adjacent to the players’ dressing room. Kaylin was beaming with excitement and pure joy. Each time her eyes wondered around the room, waiting to see her hero, I felt like I was experiencing the world for the first time along with her. 

Every opportunity that I had, I took a photo with Kaylin. 

When one of Wells Fargo’s security came to take us to see Danny, the butterflies in my stomach blewup. I was nervous, yet very excited; not for me, no, I just wanted this night to be perfect for Kaylin. She deserves nothing less. 

Danny Briere came into sight just outside the dressing room doors. He had already showered up and dressed in a dapper suit. When his eyes fell on Kaylin, you would have thought he’d known her his entire life. Danny dropped down and opened his arms, scooped Kaylin up and told her how beautiful she is. 

Kaylin was in shock; the sheer storm of happiness and excitement had rendered her speechless. All she could do was hug Danny back, and, of course, grow the biggest smile I have ever seen a child wear. 

Her mother, Angie, snapped hundreds of photos. I was glad to be a part of a mother watching her child meet her hero. The feeling is humbling and warm, and I will never forget it. 

My wife and I are having a daughter in August, 2013, and this experience has only gotten me more ready to share the worlds of love I have to give. But Kaylin will always have a special place in my heart.

**End of testimony**

Get regular hockey updates to your inbox

Nothing compares to the joy of a child.  As a father, there is no limit to the length I would go to make my children happy. Being a part of something that brought joy to such an amazing little girl was one of the highlights of not only the season, but my entire tenure as a Philadelphia Flyers fan. It is something I will never forget.

Despite Briere’s struggles this season, and no matter what happens this offseason, it is safe to say that Briere has cemented himself firmly amongst my all-time favorite Flyers.  This is a story that transcends on-ice struggles.  It goes beyond buyouts and goal production.  This comes down to bringing sheer joy to a young girl in the midst of tremendous struggle.  If only for a moment, all the burdens of a young girl were melted away.  They were replaced with the warm embrace of loving arms, the loving arms of her hero.

In this world we live in, moments like this are too few and far between.  Too often we get carried away with the negative, not only in society, but in our sports world. But this night, for one little girl, meeting her hero had her firmly on top of the hockey world.  And she will never forget it.

From myself and the rest of the Orange and Black Pack: 

We love you, Kaylin.  We hope this was an experience that changed your life.

An enormous thanks to Dennis Patrick Shea of LIVE Nation, and Tom McFlynn, Event Security Manager of Comcast-Spectacor. Without you two, gentlemen, this night would not have been possible. Thank you for making a little girl's dream come true. And, of course, a thank you and a tap of the stick to Mr. Daniel Briere