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Hockey’s youngest commentator covers games for one special fan: his blind dad.

What happens when vision loss changes the way we enjoy our favorite sport?

Hockey’s youngest commentator covers games for one special fan: his blind dad.
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As any sports fan knows, love of the game can run pretty deep.

There are player names to memorize, stats to learn, jerseys to collect, and of course, games to watch. For many families, loving a sport or a team brings them together. Parents and kids pile onto the couch or into the arena to watch games as a group.

Gerry Nelson has always enjoyed watching hockey. But things got a little trickier when blindness made it so he couldn't watch the game he loves.


Gerry wasn't always blind. But after years of ignoring his childhood diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, he lost his sight at age 25. "I lost my parents when I was very young, and I didn’t look after myself in my late-teens and 20s," Gerry said. "I didn't get the education I needed around how important health is when you're diabetic. But now I’ve turned it all around."

Losing his sight hasn't kept Gerry from living a full life. He's become an accomplished golfer. He also is an active father to his son, Wyatt, who is now 12 years old. "In reality," Gerry said, "he's more 12 going on 30."

Two things are forever true about Gerry and Wyatt Nelson's relationship. They've always been close, and they've always loved hockey.

Gerry Nelson and Wyatt Nelson-Zook in 2009. Image courtesy of Gerry Nelson, used with permission.

When Wyatt was 5 years old, they started attending hockey games together, mostly the local WHL team the Saskatoon Blades. Wyatt would watch the action on the ice, and Gerry would follow along listening to the live play-by-play broadcast on a local radio station.  

Their system worked perfectly — until the night they attended a preseason game the radio station wasn't covering. Gerry was happy to sit in the arena alongside his son, but Wyatt wanted to give him a better experience. So, he started narrating the action on the ice, emulating the play-by-play announcers hockey fans know so well. Through Wyatt's words, Gerry was able to see the action as well as he could have with sight.

From that night onward, Gerry hasn't needed his radio when he and Wyatt go to games together. Wyatt's play-by-play is enough.

“Sometimes when he is doing something with me I feel like I am taking him away from his time with his friends,” Gerry told an interviewer late last year. “But he says, ‘No, Dad, I love doing it and I want to do it.’”

Gerry and Wyatt's story started making waves in Canadian media last December. As it turned out, some folks in the NHL were following along.

Over the last year, they've had some incredible experiences thanks to hockey fans who've been inspired by their story. They've attended a Stanley Cup final game, gone to the NHL Player Awards in Las Vegas and met some of their heroes on and off the ice.

Wyatt even did play-by-play announcing for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals on a local radio station in St Louis. "He did 17 minutes of the first 20-minute period," Gerry said proudly. "The more and more he does, the better he gets at it."

By far the most emotional moment for the two came last spring when a news crew visiting Saskatoon brought a special surprise to the local arena for the Nelson boys.

Hidden in a distant room at the rink was hockey's greatest trophy: the Stanley Cup. It's a huge piece of hardware, standing nearly three-feet-high and weighing 34.5 pounds. For fans, it's especially magnificent.

Wyatt Nelson-Zook with the Stanley Cup. Image by Gerry Nelson, used with permission.

Gerry and Wyatt got to experience the cup in a way few people do — just the two of them.

"Growing up on the streets of North Battleford, our Stanley Cup was an aluminum garbage can," said Gerry. "All of a sudden, I was realizing that it was my son and I, alone — no one else in the room with the Stanley Cup. It was one of the most amazing feelings. I was able to put my hands on it, without 200 other people in the room at the same time. That’s when it really started to hit home and got pretty emotional for me."

All of these incredible moments, shared with the sport they love, haven't changed Gerry or Wyatt one bit.

Wyatt and Gerry hold the Stanley Cup. Image by Gerry Nelson, used with permission.

When the big moments are over and the Stanley Cup has been put back in its case, Gerry and Wyatt Nelson still have their remarkable connection — and the game that brought it to light.

"The perfect thing is the quality and type of relationship that Wyatt and I have," said Nelson. "It wouldn’t matter if it was a peewee game on the local outdoor rinks or the Saskatoon Blades or an NHL game in the big city. Nothing could make it better because I’m already spending this wonderful time hanging out with Wyatt, sharing our love of hockey. For him and me, the blindness doesn’t figure into it. Wyatt does what he does because Dad’s Dad and Dad can’t see."

As for all the kudos Wyatt has received for his play-by-play announcing skills, Gerry says he'll leave it up to his son to decide if that's something he wants to do. "So far Wyatt's [wanted to be] a baseball player and a hockey player and a firefighter. I know for me it took a lot of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and he's got a lot of time to figure things out," said Nelson. "I’ll support Wyatt in anything and everything he wants to do. If he opted to go that route, I would support him. After all, I'd get to go to a lot more NHL games!"

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."