Abbotsford high school student Jacob Bredenhof was shocked to find a man-sized killer whale in his house when he arrived home from school last week.
But it wasn’t just any regular man-sized killer whale, it was Fin, the mascot for the Canucks.
He hadn’t quite put it all together yet, but Bredenhof soon realized that he had been recognized by the Air Canada Foundation for his work raising $17,000 during the Terry Fox Run following his cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2018.
“I had no idea that was coming,” Bredenhof said. “It meant a lot to be recognized for what I’ve gone through.”
The Air Canada Fan Flight program selects a young person who has overcome significant obstacles to become “mark-makers,” in their communities. The recipient is surprised with tickets to go watch their local sports team, meet the star-players and be given a spotlight for their efforts.
“When we read [about Bredenhof’s] story, all of us were very very quickly convinced that he would be our mark-maker having gone through what he did and how he continues to give back,” said Melanie Stoute, manager for the Air Canada Foundation.
Bredenhof was brought out to the Canucks home game against the Colorado Avalanche that night and was given a signed jersey by Captain Bo Horvat, met with former goaltender Kirk McLean and was recognized over the speakers at Rogers Arena for his fundraising efforts.
“Seeing all those people standing and clapping for me, the whole day was just really fun,” he said.
When Bredenhof was in Grade 7 he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same type of cancer Terry Fox faced over 40 years ago. Instead of entering his first year of high school that September, he was six rounds into chemotherapy. He also just learned he would have his leg amputated.
Bredenhof, an all-star basketball player at his elementary school, was devastated, but was still able to complete two kilometres of the Terry Fox Run on crutches that year.
He became the face of the donation drive and, with the help of his basketball team, shattered the goal of raising $5,000 for cancer research.
The Air Canada Fan Flight has made partnerships with all the NHL teams in Canada to select local fans with accomplishments like Bredenhof’s to come and meet their local sport-stars.
“We like to bring fans closer to the teams that they love,” Stoute said.
Bredenhof was given another surprise at the Nov. 16 home game when he was told he would also be attending the March 13 away game against the Avalanche.
“I had no idea that was coming,” Bredenhof said. “They came up behind me with a camera and there was a pilot holding a giant boarding pass and he gave it to me.”
Bredenhof is not giving up on his athletic future despite losing a leg to cancer. He’s become the manager of his school’s junior basketball team and plans on playing basketball again soon.
“Basketball is my favourite sport and I love playing it,” he said. “Because of my amputation I’d like to go into wheelchair basketball and get into the Paralympics.”