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  This letter, written by Tim Szymula shortly before his death, details how important the local hockey community was to him. It was the support of his "Hockey Family" that led him to bequeath funds to form this program.  


Rick and Katie Ninko
Peter Nyman
Spacecoast Hockey Staff
BAIHA Board of Directors
My Extended Hurricane Family

I wanted to take some time to set down in writing while I still have that opportunity, my thanks and heartfelt gratitude to those that have become my extended family via the Space Coast Iceplex and Hurricane Hockey Organization.

Five years ago my son Nick, picked up a stick and laced on skates for the first time in his life at the Iceplex. What has evolved from that has not only been a love of the game for him, but a development of what for him will likely be life long friendships. More unexpectedly during the course of those years, the same has happened to me and the rest of my family. We have learned that unlike any other sport, hockey families are the most fraternal and close knit group of people you will ever meet. As time passed, attending games wasn't enough for me, I felt the need to be involved. I played sports in my youth at both the high school and collegiate level, and I coached soccer at the high school level in New York, but aside from being a "fan" - I was never a hockey player. So I chose to pitch-in by volunteering in an organizational way, so that those that could, could coach and play. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Eight months ago now, I received the worst news anyone would want to hear - "you're dying - and we can't help you". I shared my news with "friends" I had made at the Iceplex. What followed since has been nothing short of a blessing in my life. I received a steady stream of visitors, cards, letters and encouragement from what I now refer to to anyone who will listen to me as, "my hockey family". Your support has been unwavering through surgeries and hospitalizations in Gainesville, grueling attempts at chemo treatments at home, and lonely periods of convalescence. The most emotional moment for me was receiving a Hurricanes Jersey as I lay in a hospital bed, signed by almost every youth player from Mite to Bantam in the Hurricane Organization.

On behalf of myself, my wife Susan, and children Nick and Sophie, I want you to know how much this has meant to us. You have embraced me at the lowest point in my life, shown me love and demonstrated what true friendship is. For this I will be eternally grateful. You collectively have created not only a vibrant hockey organization, but an environment that fosters and promotes youth sports as they were intended to be - a vehicle for the positive development of kids to learn the concept of teamwork, work ethic, and enjoyment of the game.

Thank you - to all of you. I wish you continued success, and God's Blessings for you and your family's health and wellbeing now and in the future.

Tim Szymula