Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that defenceman Garrett McFadden of the Guelph Storm is the 2017-18 recipient of the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy awarded annually to the OHL’s Humanitarian of the Year.
McFadden becomes the league’s first two-time award recipient winning for a second straight season with the continuation of his program ‘McFadden’s Movement’ in support of youth mental health awareness. The initiative took new heights in 2017-18 with the introduction of an Ambassadors Program along with fundraising efforts that totaled $20,000 to local mental health resources.
“It’s a tremendous honour to be recognized as the Dan Snyder Humanitarian of the Year,” McFadden said. “The OHL and every person involved in my junior hockey career have all played a huge role in allowing me to be the person I am today. Without the help and guidance of these people, being recognized for this award would not be possible.
“It’s been awesome to see all the support from the league and the community over the last two years, which has allowed the initiative to grow, giving us the chance to reach more and more people out there who are either struggling, or wanting to help end the stigma around mental health,” McFadden added. “Being able to also have the chance to work with countless people in the mental health community has also been an eye-opening experience, one that has taught me a lot about how important and prevalent mental health really is in the community. Being able to not only voice my story, but involve teammates and friends, along with involving youth in the community has really allowed McFadden’s Movement to blossom over the last two years.”
The Storm captain introduced ‘McFadden’s Movement’ in September, 2016, as a campaign striving to change, help, and develop mental health among athletes. Directly affected by the loss of a close family friend, Wes Cameron, to suicide in 2011, McFadden has drawn on his own challenges when connecting with youth. This season’s MM27 Ambassadors Program encouraged Storm teammates and elite athletes from across the province to open up and share their own stories about mental health. This inspired community youth to do the same with an online portal on the McFadden’s Movement website that accepts digitally submitted mental health stories. Over 30 Ambassadors ranging from ages four to their mid-20’s opened up and shared personal experiences such as dealing with the emotions of changing schools, losing friends to suicide, long-term health disorders impacting their mental health, and facing mental health obstacles. As part of his community outreach, ‘McFadden’s Movement Ambassadors of the Game’ were invited to attend a Storm game as McFadden’s guest, meet with him post-game, and share their connection on the program’s website. The $20,000 raised by McFadden’s Movement fundraising programs and corporate partnership support more than triples his donation from 2016-17, and has been split between WES for Youth Online (a free youth online counseling service created in memory of McFadden’s family friend), and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington Branch.
“He has not only raised a substantial amount of funds for us to be able to continue our services but contributing immensely on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness,” said Kayla Piekarz, the Community Relations Coordinator for WES for Youth Online. “Garrett’s passion to see the change, make the change, and rally others around him to join his Movement is truly inspiring.”
A 20-year-old from Kincardine, Ont., McFadden played five full seasons with the Storm as the club’s first round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection. He won an OHL championship with the club as a rookie in 2014 and has accumulated 147 points in 292 games including a career-high 44 points in 68 games this season. The two-year captain and University of Guelph student has been the team’s Humanitarian of the Year in three of his five seasons and remains the only Storm player to win the league’s award since it was first presented in 1993.
“We are privileged to have many great young men play in our league, but once in a while a really special person comes along,” said Storm Governor Rick Gaetz. “Garrett’s hockey contributions in Guelph speak for themselves, but I have never seen anyone more engaged in our community than Garrett has been for the past five years. It takes a lot of courage to champion a program related to mental health and it’s been a real privilege to watch Garrett spread his message and make a difference in our community during his time with the Storm.”