Penguins notebook: Weekend events will honor teen who died from rare condition
Debbie Heitzenrater is usually not one to ask for help.
She has not had to — much — while trying to honor her late son, Ryan.
“The outreach has been incredible,” Heitzenrater said Thursday on the eve of a weekend youth hockey tournament and 5K run to raise funds for the Heitz 61 Foundation.
“People we don't know have sent emails asking how they can help, and someone came up the other day just to shake my hand. Ryan's story really impacted people.”
Ryan Heitzenrater died in March from complications of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a rare cellular condition that most commonly afflicts young infants and children. A healthy and active 13 year old, Heitzenrater played youth hockey with the son of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. His diagnosis last January was a shock to the family, Debbie Heitzenrater said.
Along with her husband, Doug, and elder son, Brandon, Debbie Heitzenrater started the Heitz 61 Foundation to “help other kids and keep Ryan's spirit alive.”
The nonprofit foundation's mission statement is to promote higher education and encourage physical well-being and teamwork in sports. It aims to distribute scholarships and grants, and events such as the ones this weekend will help, Debbie Heitzenrater said.
Bylsma will drop a ceremonial opening-faceoff puck for the eight-team Bantam club hockey tournament that begins Friday. Two public skates are scheduled Saturday. The 5K, for which 370 participants were registered as of Thursday morning, is slated for 9 a.m. Sunday.
All events will be at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center, and a Chinese auction will include various items from the Penguins.
Bylsma said this weekend is “definitely important to me and my family.”
“When Ryan passed there was an immediate discussion of wanting to do something,” Bylsma said. “Everybody decided it would happen in the fall.”
The Penguins lost, 4-1, to Ottawa in their opening game of a rookie tournament in London, Ontario. Left winger Cody Sylvester scored for the Penguins, who will play Toronto on Saturday.
Around the boards
Tickets for regular-season games go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. About 2,500 seats are available for each of the 41 home games. ... An open practice will be part of the Mario Lemieux Foundation's 6.6K Run and Family Walk, set for Oct. 6.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Farewell to NHL fighting
- Hard-hitting Penguins veteran winger Kunitz is last of a dying breed
- Penguins notebook: Cole more at ease facing former team
- Dumoulin-Lovejoy combo emerges as Penguins’ go-to defensive tandem
- Penguins notebook: Optional practice yields unusual defensemen demographic
- Penguins notebook: New NHL bye week sits well with Crosby
- Penguins can’t solve Sharks’ defense in defeat
- After spate of healthy scratches, Clendening seizes opportunity