The city of Columbus is special to Blue Jackets star forward Cam Atkinson, so he’s doing his part to give back during a worldwide pandemic.
“I think it’s crucial and very important, not only for me, but just for anyone who has the same platform that I have,” Atkinson said. “There are so many people and so many businesses that are struggling and hurting, whether it’s people getting laid off or places going out of business, it’s a tough time for everyone. Paying it forward is the most important thing. It’s all about trying to put smiles on people’s faces.”
Atkinson is a native of Riverside, Connecticut, but he and his wife Natalie call Columbus home. Atkinson has spent nine NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, he’s part-owner of The Battery Hockey Academy outside of Columbus and the couple’s two young sons, Declan and Caden, were born at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
“I plan on retiring here and living in Columbus full time once I’m done playing hockey,” Atkinson said. “But while I’m playing for the Blue Jackets, and while I have more of a platform and a voice, it’s important to bring awareness to the businesses and restaurants that are really struggling. I’m fortunate enough where I can give back and that’s what it’s all about. It’s never been about me. It’s about helping the community at a place I call home.”
Atkinson and his uncle Rob Robben — a veteran of the U.S. Army — founded the Force Network Fund, which was created to honor those that protect and serve their country and community. Two of Atkinson’s four brothers are currently volunteer firefighters and two of his cousins are serving as officers in the U.S. Army.
During the summer, the Force Network Fund hosted a virtual 5K, which raised more than $40,000 towards the purchase of a rapid-response machine that can test for COVID-19 at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
“That was so unique and special because it was another event where everyone participated, and whether you donated a dollar or 100 bucks, 100% of the proceeds went to that machine,” Atkinson said. “It’s a tough time and people are putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. We were very fortunate to purchase that machine.”
Atkinson also feels fortunate for the platform to give back.
During the pandemic, Atkinson joined a platform which allows fans the opportunity to hire athletes, actors, musicians, artists and other celebrities to create personalized video messages for any occasion.
Fans paid a fee for videos, but Atkinson said that 100% of the proceeds go towards local restaurants and business that need help during the pandemic.
“It’s actually been pretty fun, just to interact with all different sorts of people and ages,” Atkinson said. “It has been anywhere from a 4-year-old, who I did a video for a Christmas present, to a 77-year-old guy, who is still skating on a daily basis. It’s a way for me to interact with the fans where they typically wouldn’t get the opportunity to know you on a more personal level.”
Atkinson said that he’s interacted with kids who are struggling because their youth sports seasons were canceled or postponed because of the pandemic. Atkinson is also glad to help boost parents’ morale, too during this difficult time.
“Sometimes, they want me to kind of give their kids a pep talk,” Atkinson said. “It’s fun knowing that something I say might hit home or put someone in a better state of mind because everyone is struggling one way or another. Everyone has been affected by this pandemic and if I can put a smile on a face, that’s all that matters.”
All proceeds return to the community, and Atkinson recently paid it forward with a $4,000 check to local businesses. Interested persons can also visit his website and purchase apparel with 100% of the proceeds also going to the city of Columbus.
“We’re continuing to raise money,” Atkinson said. “I think people like to jump on board knowing that their dollar is going somewhere meaningful.”
The Blue Jackets are scheduled to open their season Jan. 14 at Nashville. Atkinson is excited for his return to the ice, but he also wants to continue to give back throughout the season.
“People want something to cheer about, and to look forward to, and being able to watch our games on a nightly basis, I think it can clear their mind off of what’s going on,” Atkinson said. “A big thank you goes out to the fans because without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.