November 1, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

With All His Heart

Alaska's Kaare Odegard Spearheads Hospital Campaign

by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer

When Alaska Nanooks defenseman Kaare Odegard returned to Fairbanks for his junior season, he was a long way from his home in Red Deer, Alberta — over 2,000 miles away across western Canada.

And he likely felt even further away than that.

Odegard's father, Scott — whom Kaare describes as his "biggest fan" — suffered a nonfatal but massive myocardial infarction (heart attack) just weeks before the 2011-12 hockey season began. In fact, he was still in the hospital when Kaare had to return to Alaska earlier this fall.

Then came a simple idea. And a determination to follow through.

Explained Odegard, "I came up to Alaska and just had a vision — that I wanted to start a charity to benefit people with heart problems in Fairbanks and in the surrounding areas."

Odegard then found himself an ally. Shawn Head, the office manager for the Nanooks' team, knew where Odegard was coming from — unfortunately, all too well. Head's father passed away from a heart attack at the age of 55.

But together, drawing on their personal experiences with their family members, Odegard and Head have established a hospital foundation campaign called "With All Your Heart," as Odegard hopes to make a difference in the community of Fairbanks — a community that has, in turn, supported him through his young hockey career thus far.

"We approached the hospital foundation in Fairbanks," said Odegard. "We're going to have two different fundraising activities, and all the donations and proceeds, which are tax-deductible, go to the Harry and Sally Potter Heart Center at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

"We're having a dinner and silent auction at the beginning of the new year, which will include items from pro hockey players who will donate pictures and jerseys."

And while the campaign aims to help the community of Fairbanks, fans and supporters can get involved from anywhere, pledging support based on the performance of the Alaska Nanooks themselves.

"For every goal we score, for every win, every power-play goal we score, for every successful penalty kill, every time one of our players has a hat trick, for every shut out — people can donate a certain amount of dollars to the fund," explained Odegard.

Turning a traumatic personal experience into something positive is almost certainly easier said than done. But in doing so, Odegard has found that the campaign has been fully embraced by the community in Fairbanks — and specifically, by the patients and their families at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

"I was able to take a full tour of the cardiac unit at the hospital," said Odegard. "Numerous people came up to me and tell me their story. That's the reason why I wanted to start the heart campaign, I felt helpless.

"There wasn't much I could do to help my dad back home. When people take the time to come thank me, that's great. It's a humbling experience for sure."

Meanwhile, Odegard's father — who is currently recovering — and the rest of his family have provided their full support to Odegard's efforts. Odegard's mother and grandmother flew to Fairbanks for the Nanooks' recent weekend series against Western Michigan.

"My dad wasn't cleared to fly up and watch the games," said Odegard, before pausing and then humbly adding, "He said he's really proud of me."

As for the future of the campaign? Odegard, a Business Administration major, may just have found a calling.

"I'd like to continue doing charity work," said the junior defenseman. "If you're in the position to help people out and make a difference, you have to take advantage of that. I'd love to see "With All Your Heart" keep going. I'll do my best to keep it off the ground."

Visit the web site to learn more about the With All Your Heart campaign.

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