The NHL’s annual Hockey Fights Cancer campaign began Monday, with all 30 teams holding in-arena awareness nights through Nov. 17. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has decided to show his support through his hair, well, what's left of it, after the disease hit close to home recently.
In late August, Pietrangelo sent out a Tweet asking for prayers for his niece, Ellie, after she was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor, a rare cancer of the kidneys that affects mostly children. After undergoing surgery to remove a mass, the 5-year old began chemotherapy.
On Monday night, almost two months after Pietrangelo’s Tweet, he sent out another one. This time, it was two photos of him and Ellie. To support his niece in her cancer fight, the Blues defenseman decided to enlist her help in shaving his head. The first picture caught Ellie's work midway through, while the second showcased the final product:
— Alex Pietrangelo (@apetro_27) October 20, 2014
The thing to take away from that photo isn’t Pietrangelo’s newly-shaved head, it’s Ellie’s smile.
“To see her laugh, and smile, the way she was when she was doing it—even though she dug the razor in a couple times—it was good,” said Pietrangelo, who added he’s been talking about the idea for awhile. “I had bunches of hair. I had a rat tail and everything going on. Sister-in-law cleaned it up a bit. She didn’t do this herself at 5 years old. … I was scared about the eyebrows.”
He’s admitted he’s never shaved his head. And it was something even a mother could have trouble getting used to—“I think my mother was terrified when I sent her a picture,” Pietrangelo admitted.
Pietrangelo has been active in the fight against cancer for some time. In 2011, he was introduced to 14-year old Blues fan Seth Lange, who was battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The teen made a lasting impression on the organization when his Christmas wish that year was to donate toys to a local children’s hospital, which he did with help from Pietrangelo and goaltender Brian Elliott.
Unfortunately, Seth lost his fight this past August, two days after the Blues held their Ice Breaker event where they unveiled their new jerseys. After the event, Pietrangelo personally delivered a signed jersey to Seth, who's health had taken a turn for the worse by that point.
For Ellie, she's still smiling and supporting her uncle's hockey endeavors while he supports her in her fight. To help off-set their medical expenses, the family has set up a GoFundMe page and are close to their goal of raising $20,000.
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