“So I said to my wife, ‘I've got the resources that I can do something.'”
He talked to the public relations staff for the Grand Rapids Griffins and came up with the program. He bought season tickets, gave them to the Children's Hospital there and started giving the tours.
The program followed him to San Antonio, where he played for two seasons, and to Hershey, Pa., for two years before he wound up in Oklahoma City.
“It's amazing,” Helmer said. “Not only does it put a smile on them, but it puts a smile on me, too. The kids are amazing and so are the parents with the stuff that they go through. Our situation wasn't really life-threatening but it's stressful, and I couldn't imagine going through some of the things they've been through.”
The program has really taken off this season with the Barons, with the families being introduced and interviewed mid-game. Buffalo Wild Wings sponsored the season tickets, and the team masseuse gave Helmer some Scentsy Buddies to give to the children.
“It's been amazing here with the help that he's gotten from everyone,” said Helmer's wife Pam. “They've really just jumped on board with it.
“At the end of the day, hockey's hockey, but if you don't have your health, it doesn't mean much. For him to get a chance to spend some time with the families, learn about them and talk to them has been wonderful.”
Helmer's son, Cade, is the same age as Joel and Paul and spent some time talking with the boys outside of the locker room.
Paul plays soccer and football and sometimes basketball at recess at his Edmond school. Seeing his first hockey game and meeting Helmer afterward left him wanting to improve.
“They really impressed me to be a better player in whatever sport I do,” he said.
Alissa said the pump Paul has worn for almost a year has helped him tremendously.
“He's too comfortable with it sometimes,” she said.
For Paul, the initial diagnosis was rough, but he's learned to live with the disease.
“It was very scary,” he said. “I was frightened, didn't know what to do and I couldn't think straight.
“But since I've got the pump, it's so much easier. Shots every three days are a lot better than taking shots four times a day.”
For Helmer, it's not hard letting a loss go after meeting people like the Crawfords.
“It really puts things into perspective,” Bryan Helmer said. “We play a game. You see what they're going through and it's tough to be upset after a game.”