Hockey Mom Gives Rink Manager the Gift of Life

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Managing a local skating arena involves much more than opening the doors and making sure the rink remains ice cold.  

Graham Nesbitt always provided the extra, special touch, often opening the rink early, leaving it open late, and even weathering a few snowstorms at the local skating arena in Seaforth, Ontario. 

Bonnie O’Reilly has kept meticulous notes in her head over the years, as her two sons, Ryan and Cal, rose from local hot shots to playing in the NHL. And now it’s time for her to pay it forward. 

With Nesbitt in need of a kidney donation, Bonnie O’Reilly was among many locals in a community of about 3,000 people who volunteered to be tested to see if they were a match. 

You know what comes next. 

Earlier this month, O’Reilly donated one of her kidneys to Nesbitt, now retired and 65. Both Nesbitt and O’Reilly are recovering well after the surgery. 

“’What you’ve done for my boys, helping them achieve their goal of playing professional hockey, it’s the least we can do,’” Nesbitt’s son Joe said, quoting O’Reilly in a conversation with CBC. 

The sentiment is mutual. 

“From our family to you and yours Bonnie, thanks for the gift of a lifetime,” Pam Nesbitt, Graham’s wife, posted on Facebook “Your selfless act means more than you’ll ever know.” 

More accolades and acknowledgements have been plentiful of course, including a Twitter shoutout from the St. Louis Blues, who shared a photo of Nesbitt and O’Reilly giving the thumbs up from the hospital. 

Ryan is the captain of the Blues. Cal played for a few different NHL teams and is now with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League. 

“Your team growing up, you become more than just a team, you kind of become family,” Joe Nesbitt, Graham’s son, said. “It’s kind of left me speechless.” 

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