For­ward on and off the ice

Bull­dog Zack Jack­son and his fam­ily promised to do­nate 75 cents for ev­ery retweet for the Bell Let’s Talk Day. Teri Pe­coskie re­ports.

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TERI PE­COSKIE

Zack Jack­son put his money where his mouth is. His dig­i­tal mouth, that is.

Early this week, the 18-year-old Hamil­ton Bull­dogs for­ward and his fam­ily do­nated $3,000 to Chil­dren’s Men­tal Health On­tario.

And it all started with a tweet.

Rewind to last Wed­nes­day, or Let’s Talk Day in Canada — Bell’s an­nual men­tal health aware­ness and fundrais­ing cam­paign. The way it works is for ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion — ev­ery tweet or text, call or video view — the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant do­nates five cents to men­tal health ini­tia­tives. Jack­son de­cided to up the ante. Just af­ter 10 p.m., the Bar­rie na­tive went on Twit­ter and typed out a sim­ple mes­sage. For ev­ery retweet he could get be­tween 11 p.m. and mid­night, he would make a 75-cent dona­tion. “No one has to take the weight of life alone,” he added.

Then, he watched as the num­bers started tick­ing up.

Dur­ing the last hour of the day, Jack­son’s mes­sage was retweeted roughly 4,000 times — a $3,000 con­tri­bu­tion. And by Thurs­day, his orig­i­nal tweet had 5,742 retweets and 770 likes. “At the time, I was like, jeez, this is huge,” he said. “I didn’t think it would get that big.”

Nei­ther did his par­ents, who found out about his pledge via — you guessed it — Twit­ter.

When asked about her re­ac­tion to read­ing the tweet, Jack­son’s mom Pamela said “it was just a sense of pride.” She and her hus­band Michael have al­ways tried to teach Zack and his older sis­ter the value of char­ity and she said they were happy to sup­port him.

“If they feel pas­sion­ate about some­thing, we en­cour­age them to pur­sue it. And be ac­count­able,” she added. “Some par­ents were prob­a­bly like, ‘what were you think­ing?’ But for us, we were just proud.”

While peo­ple were gen­er­ally kind on­line, Jack­son, who hails from Bar­rie, said he did ex­pe­ri­ence a bit of blow­back. “One guy said ‘he bit off more than he can chew.’”

That’s part of the rea­son it was so im­por­tant to him to fol­low through with his com­mit­ment quickly. On Tues­day, he posted proof of the con­tri­bu­tion on Twit­ter, to which CMHO replied, “We can’t thank you and your fam­ily enough for your dona­tion & ad­vo­cacy of chil­dren’s men­tal health aware­ness.” The post also in­cluded the hash­tag #kid­scant­wait.

Jack­son, who has eight points in 33 games as a Bull­dogs rookie, said his par­ents sup­port a range of char­i­ta­ble causes.

This one, how­ever, is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to him be­cause men­tal ill­ness “has had a pretty big im­pact on his fam­ily.” While he wasn’t com­fort­able elab­o­rat­ing, he did say “it af­fects ev­ery­one, even their loved ones” and “it’s just as hard to deal with as an in­jury — a con­cus­sion and so forth.”

He and his fam­ily, he added, “are very hon­oured and happy to do what we’ve done.”

Jack­son wasn’t the only OHL player to use twit­ter as a fundrais­ing plat­form. North Bay Bat­tal­ion goalie Mat Woro­niuk do­nated 25 cents per retweet to the CMHO in the wake of Bell’s Let’s Talk cam­paign, for in­stance, while his team­mate Ja­cob Ball gave $400 to the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion.

Jack­son’s Bull­dogs have a busy week­end ahead of them with three games in less than 48 hours. Here’s a look at what they’re up against: Bar­rie Fri­day, 7:30 p.m., FirstOn­tario Cen­tre

The sto­ry­line: The Colts start the week­end in the OHL base­ment with just one win in their last 10 games and five straight losses

Player to watch: Over­age for­ward An­thony Ste­fano is se­cond in team scor­ing and notched a goal and two as­sists in his only pre­vi­ous game against the Bull­dogs this sea­son

No­table alumni: Zac Ri­naldo, Alex Pi­etrangelo, Mark Scheifele Hamil­ton con­nec­tion: None Ni­a­gara Satur­day, 7 p.m., FirstOn­tario Cen­tre

The sto­ry­line: The ninth-place IceDogs are win­less in four games against Hamil­ton this sea­son and had lost four in a row go­ing into Thurs­day’s game against Mis­sis­sauga

Player to watch: Ryan Man­tha is fifth in scor­ing among OHL de­fence­men, de­spite reg­is­ter­ing just a sin­gle as­sist in his past five out­ings

No­table alumni: Alex Pi­etrangelo, Mark Visentin, Dougie Hamil­ton

Hamil­ton con­nec­tion: De­fence­man Johnathon Schae­fer is from Stoney Creek At Oshawa Sun­day, 2:05 p.m. The sto­ry­line: The Gen­er­als have three wins in their last four out­ings, but have been outscored 13-3 by the Bull­dogs in their past two meet­ings

Player to watch: The OHL’s rookie of the month for Jan­uary Al­lan McShane has 10 points in eight games since his trade to the Gen­er­als

No­table alumni: Eric Lin­dros, John Tavares, Dave An­dr­ey­chuk

Hamil­ton con­nec­tion: None

HAMIL­TON’S ZACK JACK­SON, RIGHT, AND NORTH BAY’S CAM DINEEN TRY TO GET CON­TROL OF A FLY­ING PUCK.

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