Matt Welsh given 'great way to give back' as player-ambassador for blood donation program
'We're all kind of getting behind this awesome cause'
Matt Welsh, the backbone of the Charlottetown Islanders for the past two seasons, has taken on a new role as player-ambassador for Hockey Gives Blood, a non-profit that's partnered with Canadian Blood Services to educate the hockey community about the importance of blood and stem cell donation.
In his final season of major junior hockey, the Halifax native has embraced a leadership role, but more with his actions than his words.
"I take pride in this role," Welsh said. "I never really knew about blood donation growing up, I knew it was a thing, but I was never really educated on it very much. If I can get the word out there a little bit about how important it is and really what it means to kind of share the information of how it can save lives, I think that would be huge for the community."
Hockey Gives Blood was founded by a group of former hockey players following the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, to encourage the hockey community to help save lives by ensuring patients have blood products when they need them.
Team blood donation
Welsh — who is the first in Atlantic Canada to be selected as a player-ambassador — is spreading the message about the importance of blood and stem cell donation through social media to help encourage the next generation of blood donors to roll up their sleeves and give the gift of life.
"It's touching a demographic we probably would not have been in contact with," said Deborah MacGillvray, territory manager with Canadian Blood Services. "It's a younger demographic, it's the hockey community, which is pretty tight, so we're really excited to have him on board."
Welsh, a first-time blood donor, brought his teammates to donate with him Tuesday in Charlottetown.
The donation Welsh helped co-ordinate accounted for a third of the entire day's donation in Charlottetown, according to CBS.
"I was really excited that the boys came to support everyone and support this great cause," Welsh said. "I think as a team it kind of even brought us closer, you know. We're all kind of getting behind this awesome cause and you know we can all feel really good about donating today."
"Feeling like I accomplished something today," added Islanders defenceman and first-time donor Xavier Bernard. "I probably saved a life of somebody, so for me I just think it's just good to donate some blood and give a chance to somebody."
Welsh is already planning to visit local high schools in the coming weeks and another team donation is possible later this season.
"I think Matt's kind of the face of our franchise," Islanders head coach Jim Hulton said. "I think he's well connected, not only here in Charlottetown, but also Atlantic Canada hockey circles, so he's a great guy to be able to push the message."
"Being part of the Islanders we have the opportunity to, you know, kind of be leaders in our community and to create awareness for such a great cause — it's a great way to give back," Welsh said.