Brayden dreams of one day playing in the National Hockey League. Hockey is a sport that his late father U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Matthew J also loved growing up.
Brayden feels hockey allows him to also create his own identity and still remain connected to his dad.
“Hockey is a sport that allows you to become a very athletic person as well as to become your own self,” Brayden said. “Hockey was a sport that my dad played. It has really made me think of him when I play. Every time I go over to my grandmother’s house, I see pictures of my dad in his hockey uniform. I have a picture of a hockey team my dad played on when he was my age. Hockey allows me to connect with (my dad) heart to heart,” Brayden said. “Being able to do this (hockey) camp allows me to improve my game to be a player he would be proud of.”
Brayden’s involvement in hockey has provided positive life outcomes following the tragic loss of his father. Further, Angels’ support of his dreams helps reverse national trends of children whose military or first responder parent pass away.
“Hockey helps you socialize with others and make friends you wouldn’t meet at school,” Brayden said. “It helps keep me from being bored and over the summer these camps help keep me in shape. Thank you Angels of America’s Fallen for giving me this [support]. It will help me so much to help me reach my goal of one day playing in the NHL.”
Today, there are more than 16,000 children in the United States who have lost a parent who volunteered to serve their country in the military or as a first responder. Most of the children are very young at the time of loss (average age – 7 years).
Statistics show that these children have a greater likelihood for depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, behavior problems, substance abuse, and even suicide. Angels of America’s Fallen mitigates these risks by providing regular opportunities for participation in extracurricular interest such as sports, fitness, art, music, theater and other activities. Research demonstrates that feeling connected and engaged with at least two areas outside of family such as school/afterschool activities, positive peers, athletics, employment, religion, culture and the arts is a protective factor that can mitigate the risks associated with parental loss. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health, April 2016)