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.
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.