MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When you think of Florida Panthers hockey, rough and tough is what comes to mind but there’s a definitely a soft side to the team.
The NHL team stood with millions in raising awareness for autism this month but they did it in quite a unique way.
“Florida is very passionate about autism and from the Florida Panthers foundation, it’s something we’re very passionate about as well,” said Lauren Simone, Executive Director of the Florida Panthers Foundation. “So Meghan came out this year, who got to be our Panther Pro For A Day, [she] got to experience what it was like to be a Panthers pro hockey player.”
The 13-year-old autistic teen was chosen by the Panthers, Autism Speaks and South Florida Ford to become part of the team, but it’s not official until it’s on paper and the team was ready with a contract for her to sign.
“So Meghan why don’t you sign that contract right there and I’ll sign right here and we’ll make it official,” said Dale Tallon, Panthers President of Hockey Operations.
After meeting her Panthers teammates, Meghan Bollier kicked off the day with the team breakfast.
Then it was time to get her gear and head off to the ice before holding an official press conference to cap off the day.
“I was nervous but now I’m happy and now I’m excited,” she said.
As an honorary Panther, Meghan was even asked to drop the puck at Monday night’s game.
Her experience as a Panther was not so much about awareness but more about acceptance because after all, autism isn’t a choice but acceptance is.
Panther for a Day is an auction item at the team’s annual fundraiser, Cats and Cocktails!
All the proceeds go to their foundation as they have a big task at hand.
Panthers Ownership has recently committed $5 million over five years, honoring local organizations.
Autism Speaks is just one of many.
To find out more, head to www.nhl.com/panthers/community/foundation.