By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
A former Oshawa General and Memorial Cup winner is looking to help grieving children across Durham and the rest of Canada.
Will Petschenig is looking to honour his father, who died suddenly while he was playing for the Generals in 2013, with his program A Heart Like Mine.
Petschenig, who currently plays for the Fort Wayne Comets of the East Coast Hockey League, says he is using his platform as a professional athlete to give back to children and families going through the grieving process.
The Memorial Cup champ plans to open “Canada’s premier children’s centre” in Durham as a resource for these families, and it will be called A Heart Like Mine House.
“With COVID-19, it’s going to take some time to start. We’re planning on opening something up in 2021, and hopefully offer some virtual peer support groups before that,” he says.
Petschenig, who was traded to the Saginaw Spirit after winning the cup in 2015, says he always wanted to do something to carry on his dad’s legacy.
“I think the easiest, and the best way I could’ve done that is to start this foundation to give back to grieving children and families by inviting these families who have gone through the loss of a loved one to come to my hockey games and get the VIP experience,” he says.
He notes these families will get free tickets, a meal before the game, and then they would come to the locker room after where Petschenig would give them souvenirs.
“Most people thought it would end there, but I would actually go out into the community and help them out,” he says, adding he would go to their events such as plays, hockey games, or another sport.
Petschenig says his time as a General had a massive influence on his charity work, as the fans, the team, and all of Durham supported him while he grieved the loss of his father.
“To this day, I’ve called Durham Region home, and it’s a place I want to spend the rest of my life in,” he says. “Just being able to help others, and being an Oshawa Generals player, you’re looked on as a role model, and I was able to use my voice and platform to help these kids out.”
For Petschenig, the Generals, Oshawa, and all of Durham have been a major support system for him as he went through his own grief.
A location for the children’s centre has yet to be picked as COVID-19 has put a hold on finding a spot.
However, a documentary titled A Heart Like Mine is set to release tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 29, the seventh anniversary of his father’s passing.
“That will basically explain my story, and will share my plan of what I’ve done, and what I will continue to do to help grieving children here in Durham Region, and across Canada,” he says.
Those interested in the documentary can visit aheartlikemine.ca.