The Red Deer Rebels are in a fight for their playoff life in the Western Hockey League but four of the Rebels learned a lesson about an actual fight for life this past week.
Adam Musil, Kolton Dixon, Scott Feser and Kirk Bear were at West Park Middle School to help with the Jump Rope for Heart campaign, put together by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Addressing an audience of middle school-aged students was the perfect location for this activity. According to the Foundation in 2013, 26% of Canadian children and youth are either overweight or obese, an increase from 8% in 2004.
The message was very strong and at the same time simple enough – adopting healthy habits at a young age reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke throughout life.
“It’s great to raise awareness with the young kids while they still have a chance to make the right decisions,” said Dixon.
“It’s good to start with little kids so now they can pass it along to their friends and I’m pretty sure there’s a good group of these kids who will take that message,” added Bear.
Dixon said he was happy to come out to the event to jump some rope and said he has some firsthand experience when it comes to what heart health is all about.
“I know it’s affected my family. My grandpa has had two heart attacks so it definitely hits close to home in that sense.”
These young men have their futures ahead of them, on or off the ice, but the fragile nature of life was not lost on them or their young audience when they all heard the story of Red Deer’s Austin McGrath.
The swimmer and competitive skier suffered a cardiac arrest in his 20s while he was swimming and spent plenty of time in the hospital while in a coma for three weeks.
He now has an electronic device in his chest as a result of that episode.
The fact it happened to a relatively healthy young man caught the attention of the four hockey players who are not that far off in age.
“I just couldn’t believe somebody could go through so much and he’s still swimming and other things,” said Bear. “I mean if anything he’s a role model for myself.”
“He looks like a healthy, in shape kind of guy. He said he was an athlete and that really goes to show that it can affect anyone.”
The players and students heard some sobering information about the health of youth, including the fact only 7% of youth get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But being active isn’t the only aspect of keeping your heart pumping.
“Although you may be active you still have to have the right kind of diet plan and stay healthy, stay away from smoking and other things that can deteriorate your health and your heart,” said Dixon.
To get the point across about being active the Rebels learned a few lessons about skipping rope and then showed off their skills to the student body.
There was also a video shown of another Jump Rope for Heart event which highlighted some extremely talented young men and women who can skip with the best. The Rebels players were impressed when it came to comparing their own brand of skipping.
“I think I’d have to take skipping up full time if I want to do that,” said Dixon.
“Oh, I don’t know. It might take me a couple of years of practice to do that stuff,” added Bear.