On Friday Feb. 7, Van Andel Institute Purple Community helped kick off Hockey Fights Cancer weekend at Southside Ice Arena. Walking into the arena, it was impossible to miss all the purple decor and wonderful raffle and auction packages displayed in the main lobby.
Every year, hundreds of families and players come out to support Purple Community during this incredible three-day weekend: Children have fun winning purple trinkets at our Purple Community table, and the players’ families dress in every shade of purple. Teams from across the state come to play against Fox Motors Hockey, whose team members each sport a purple jersey with the name of a loved one who has battled or is battling cancer.
The biggest event of the weekend is the All-Star Game, where Southside chooses one special person to participate in the ceremonial puck drop. For the past two years, Eric Langdon, a loving husband and father who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016, has been featured as the puck drop honoree.
Eric’s tremendous energy and spirit shine through his unwavering enthusiasm for Southside and the Institute. In 2016, Eric had two different brain surgeries that together removed about 90 percent of the tumor. Eric and his family decided to wait to pursue other treatments to give him proper recovery time. After three years, the doctors noticed a small amount of growth of the tumor. It was at this point that Eric made the choice to undergo chemotherapy and radiation; he is now in the early rounds of 12 chemotherapy treatments.
Eric first learned of Purple Community in 2018, when a family friend at his church asked if their son, Collin, could wear Eric’s name on the back of his jersey at that years’ Hockey Fights Cancer game.
Eric was so touched by the gesture that it prompted him to learn more about the event and Purple Community. The more he learned, the more he wanted to get involved, so he reached out to a few businesses to gauge their interest in sponsoring the 2018 event.
The following year, Southside asked Eric to drop the puck for the All-Star Game; he was asked to participate again in 2020. Eric was thrilled to show off his purple hockey jersey featuring his own name. He believes that Hockey Fights Cancer is such a powerful and meaningful event, providing players and their families with the chance to show support for loved ones who have faced a cancer journey.
Hockey Fights Cancer weekend at Southside holds a special place in Eric’s heart. It serves as a reminder that there are more people who make up his support team than he could have ever imagined. He also thinks it is a great opportunity for the youth to get involved in a remarkable cause.
Eric has taken his support of VAI off the ice and onto the road, participating for the past two years in the Institute’s annual Consumers Credit Union Purple Community 5K held in April at the Mary Free Bed YMCA. The dedicated volunteers and the tireless amount of hard work that each person puts into the event’s success never cease to move Eric. Having the opportunity to participate in a family-friendly event while raising money for a great cause close to his heart means so much to him.
From the volunteers that cheer people on at the PC 5K, to people hanging decorations at Southside Arena for Hockey Fights Cancer weekend, Eric appreciates every single person who helps make these events happen year after year. Touching stories like Eric Langdon’s make us love every moment of what we do here at Van Andel Institute Purple Community.
Between the players raising funds for their purple jerseys, the massive raffle and silent auction, beer and wine sales and much more fundraising that took place throughout the weekend, Southside raised more than $59,000 for cancer research at VAI in 2020.
We extend our deepest appreciation to all of those who came out and supported the event and to all the volunteers that helped us make this weekend possible. We want to extend a very special thank you to Southside Ice Arena and Fox Motors Hockey for their continued support throughout the years.
To learn more about how to get involved with Purple Community at one of our amazing events, visit purplecommunity.org.