B.C.’s hockey community is coming together to support a young Nanaimo man pursuing his dreams of going pro after dealing with immeasurable loss.
Skyler Cameron, 21, finished his junior career last spring.
Tragically, near the end of the season, his mom, Linda, died following a courageous battle with breast cancer.
“When I was younger, she got diagnosed,” Cameron told Global News.
“It was a hard fight, But we were always there to support her, and she eventually beat it. And then, I believe my second year into West Kelowna Junior (hockey), it came back. And ever since then, it was just kind of a hard fight. And then ultimately the cancer won, I guess, and she did pass this past May.
“So yeah, it was a tough one.”
A few weeks later, his father Darryl died from an unexpected cardiac event.
“I was actually in Vancouver working and I got a call from my brother one day and (he) just said our dad had had a heart attack and passed away,” Cameron said. “But I guess some could say (it) was from a broken heart.”
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Cameron describes his parents as amazing and supportive of both hockey and his school and friends.
“My mom, every time she walked into a room, she had the brightest smile and can make anyone laugh. And she was just amazing,” he said.
“My dad’s just supported my career since I was a little kid, always pushing me to get better, always making the trips and tournaments and stuff like that. And, yeah, just being an amazing dad. I miss him every day.”
Cameron said both parents were always trying to find ways to support him and his career and his dad was so happy to hear he had been accepted to Trinity Western University for next year and he would be playing for them.
After both of them passed away, he said he wasn’t even sure he wanted to play hockey anymore.
But he knew they would want him to continue to pursue his dream.
“I mean, if I did have a bad game, (my dad) would always be there to kind of show me what I did wrong, whether it be going over video or something like that, so I could fix it for the next time,” Cameron said. “So I’m going to miss that. But I know secretly he’s going to send me messages from above.”
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He will live with family in Vancouver for now and said the outpouring of support from the hockey community has been wonderful.
“I’ve been blown away,” he said. “I can’t even put into words how special it was that people have done that for me to continue my dreams and pursue my goals that my parents and I laid out.
“I just can’t thank everyone enough. So yeah, it’s been amazing.”
Kelly Marini, a fellow hockey mom and friend of his parents, started a GoFundMe to raise money for the financial help Cameron will need.
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“Darryl, he supported Skyler. He would drive all the time over from Nanaimo, drive up to Kelowna and watch the games, like, you know, fly all over to watch his kid play,” Marini said. “Linda, she came to Calgary and watched a few showcases.”
“That was their dream to see Skyler succeed, and go play university and go to a higher level. He’s done very well so far.”
She said so many in the hockey community reached out wanting to help Cameron so she decided to start the GoFundMe.
“Let us help him out because us as parents just recognize how hard that will be for him to move forward without his two main support people.”
“You just notice them rally around,” Marini added, “all his all coaches, teammates, organizations he’s played for. Everybody has rallied around and I guess it’s because they just don’t want that dream to die that Skyler and his mom and dad had.
“It’s been overwhelming.”
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Cameron is working two jobs during the summer to help raise money for his university career ahead but Marini said she wants to be able to take any financial weight off his shoulders and let him know everyone is there for him.
“So that’s just the goal, to help him get through it, because it’s going to be tough.”
Josh Bonar, former coach at the Burnaby Winter Club Academy and summer skills coach, has known Cameron for about six years.
He said Cameron’s parents were very loving and so supportive, especially as it can be tough to put a child through the academy.
“Yeah, it’s sad. Really tragic,” Bonar said. “It kind of it really hits you in the heart. And I’m super sad. And we’re just here to support Skyler any way we can and try to get him on his feet and pursue his dreams.”
He added that Cameron has a lot of potential to play pro hockey one day.
“He’s always been a really strong kid, and he’s always had that personality and he’s always been very eager to do well and very, very self-driven,” Bonar added. “So he’s doing an unreal job. But it doesn’t surprise me either.”
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