Angels on ice: 24-hockey event raises spirits, funds for Children's Hospital

-A A +A
By The Staff

Shortly after Lars Skoric was born, he was rushed to Children’s Hospital with persistent pulmonary hypertension, and the doctors there saved his life. Seven years later, Lars is an ambassador for the hospital, and he and his family were on hand at the 24 Hours of Hockey event at The Edge Ice Arena to help raise money for Children’s.

“God doesn’t make your kids sick, but he brings angels to save them,” said Ivan Skoric, Lars’ father.

Many of the angels at The Edge last weekend, who came from near and far to raise funds for the Aurora hospital, had a touch of insomnia, as the third annual event began at 6 p.m. Friday and didn’t wrap up until 6 p.m. the following day.

The event kicked off with a welcome reception, during which young children, teens and adults mingled in the bleachers and skated on the ice. Gentle laughter and wild wipeouts punctuated the icy action; meanwhile, a silent auction was held, with items such as jerseys and hockey sticks signed by NHL players.

The fund-raiser opened with a youth stick-and-puck session with NHL players and a chance to challenge Florida Panthers goalie Craig Anderson. Later in the night, adult players hit the ice for a 16-hour hockey marathon.

Colorado Avalanche right wing Ian Laperriere showed up to skate with the youngsters.

“It’s my first time, and it looks like a great success,” Laperriere said. “It’s great, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

April Govednik, 21, a senior at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, was one of the adult players who participated in the 16-hour marathon. She caught a flight to Colorado just for the fund-raiser.

“It’s a really good cause, a really good hospital,” said Govednik, who plays hockey for the Chatham Cougars.

As a baby, Govednik was taken to Children’s Hospital after she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. Even now, if she suffers an injury while playing hockey, Govednik finds hospitals a little frightening. She said it’s important to have a hospital dedicated to children and designed to minimize the scary aspects of an adult facility.

“Being in a kid-friendly environment would be kind of nice,” she said, referring to any treatment she might need now.

On Saturday afternoon, youth hockey players from the Foothills Hockey Association and the Hyland Hills Hockey Association played in the Youth Challenge Cup, raising money for Children’s Hospital and for their hockey associations.

The 24 Hours of Hockey event raised $71,873 in its first two years. This year, $21,000 had been donated via www.24hoursofhockey.com; final fund-raising figures will be released this week.

For Jackie and Ivan Skoric, who came from their home in Basalt, the fund-raiser brought back memories of a fearful time when their son’s life hung by the narrowest of threads.

“I remember telling the doctor, ‘Our son isn’t going to make it,’ ” Ivan Skoric said.

Lars Skoric, 7, who as a newborn was unable to breathe properly because of dangerously high blood pressure in his lungs, was rushed to Children’s Hospital and given nitric oxide therapy. The procedure, developed by Dr. John P. Kinsella and his team at Children’s, helped spare Lars from a more risky procedure similar to a heart-lung bypass.

“The rock stars (Flight For Life), they saved our son’s life,” Jackie Skoric said. “The team in Denver saved his life again — we will forever be grateful.”

After spending 37 days in Children’s Hospital, a year on oxygen and then another year and a half under “house arrest” with a compromised immune system, Lars is now a typical 7-year-old with a love for sports, especially hockey.

“It’s overwhelming,” Ivan said. “They saved my son’s life — you can’t put a price on that.”