When Braedon Hyland died, the sport of hockey lost a shining star.
Hyland's family and friends are trying to make sure that doesn't happen again.
While a senior at East Ridge High School Hyland died on Oct. 14, 2011 from injuries sustained in an Afton automobile crash. Created by his family, The Braedon Hyland Hockey Foundation is raising money to provide scholarships for young hockey players struggling to afford the sport they love to play. Currently, the foremost fundraiser for the foundation is the Braedon Hyland Memorial Golf Tournament, which was held on June 18 at StoneRidge Golf Club in Stillwater. Over 325 people took part in the inaugural event, which included golf, a silent auction, dinner and program emceed by Fox 9's Randy Meier.
"It's a pretty emotional, special day for us," Braedon's father Bill Hyland said. "My wife and I can't say enough about the support we've gotten. There's no way we could have put something like this on, especially in the eight months since Braedon's accident. It's amazing."
The tournament and dinner have been sold out for more than a month.
"It's way more than we expected," Bill Hyland said. "It's overwhelming. It shows that people believe in what we're doing and what a special kid Braedon was and how he touched so many lives."
Bill Hyland said the foundation and tournament have been therapeutic and he's felt Braedon's presence throughout the process.
"I'm 100 percent convinced that he's helping us throughout the way," he said. "The whole foundation has kind of come to us. The foundation and Braedon are really driving us."
The tournament was more than a fundraiser, however, it was also a place friends and family could remember Braedon.
"It was really important to us that all of Braedon's friends that don't golf could still be a part of it somehow," he said. "It was super important that all of those kids could be a part of it in one level or another. We wanted everyone to be a part of this experience and to be able to come out and celebrate his life."
Woodbury 2010 graduate Chelsey Larson, a former Royals golf team captain who is good friends with Braedon's older brother Walker Hyland, spearheaded the golf tournament.
"We can't thank our hockey family enough. There's so many people to thank obviously, but if I had to thank just one person it's Chelsey Larson," Bill Hyland said. "That young lady has been amazing. I can't say enough about her and what she's done."
Foundation keeps kids on the ice
In his time at East Ridge, Hyland played soccer, football and track and field, but hockey was the sport he loved most. As a junior in the 2010-11 season, Hyland played in 25 games, logging nine points as a key defenseman. This past season, in a very rare occurrence at the high school level, Hyland's No. 23 was retired by the East Ridge hockey team. Hockey has been a big part of the Hyland household. Walker Hyland, a former standout player at Woodbury High School, still plays hockey and will take the ice for Michigan Tech this year. For many families, however, the costs associated with hockey make it impossible to play. The Braedon Hyland Hockey Foundation's mission is to make the game of hockey possible for all children under the age of 18 regardless of their financial situation. According to the foundation, the average family of a hockey player spends roughly $1,000 per child per year. Costs associated with playing hockey include expensive equipment players must wear to be safe on the ice.
"Our mission is to help kids play hockey that can't afford it," Bill Hyland said. "But, we want to be able to take it to another level. We want to be able to take a kid in at 10 or 11 and see them through all the way to high school. In Minnesota, you just don't go to high school and say I want to play hockey. It's part of what you do as a kid growing up here.
"It's not just the financial side, it's equipment and the support you need to get to the level to be able to play high school hockey."
In addition to the golf tournament, The Braedon Hyland Hockey Foundation is raising money for kids through donations. The family also is selling Hyland's No. 23 T-shirts and began a clothing line called sicbuddy -- a phrase Braedon often used when things were looking good -- with all proceeds going to the foundation.
South St. Paul youth hockey player Blake Schlosser was the first official scholar athlete of the Braedon Hyland Hockey Foundation.
"When I saw Blake playing hockey it gave me flashbacks of watching Braedon play when he was a PeeWee," Bill Hyland said. "It was just amazing to see his face and see him out there enjoying it. If we can make the difference in the lives of kids and have an impact it's so worth the work we're putting into it."
See additional photos in the June 20 issue of the Bulletin