A youth hockey team’s attempt to find a kidney donor for their coach has gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of people viewing their video.
“It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Stephen Gillis told CTV Vancouver.
“It’s unbelievably kind. They’re just amazing kids.”
Gillis is the coach of the Spirit, a peewee team in the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease more than a decade ago.
When he started experiencing cramping and other unusual symptoms last summer, he suspected it was his Crohn’s flaring up.
A trip to the hospital revealed a very different story: a rare and incurable kidney disease that Gillis had likely developed unknowingly a couple years ago. His kidneys were functioning at less than 10 per cent.
“My blood was basically vinegar,” he said.
Gillis says he is able to maintain a “relatively normal” life for now by taking medication and drinking a lot of water when he exerts himself, but will likely eventually need to go on dialysis if he doesn’t receive a kidney transplant.
When Gillis’ players – some of whom have been on his team for years – heard about his predicament, they wanted to do something to help.
“He’s a great coach and he teaches us a lot,” player Jordan Stewart said.
“We thought it would be a great idea to put a video on social media to try to find a kidney for him.”
The video features members of the peewee team explaining why they think so highly of Gillis and requesting that any willing living kidney donor with an O-group blood type get in touch.
“He’s very kind to us, and so we wanted to do something back for him,” player Paige Stewart told CTV Vancouver.
The video was posted Jan. 3. By Monday morning it had racked up more than 350,000 views across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – a level of outreach Gillis found incredible.
“The reason I got involved in coaching was to try and make a difference, try and build better people,” he said.
“We’re doing the right thing here and teaching them that they can make a difference.”
Our head coach has kidney disease and needs a living donor for a transplant. Can you help spread our message to find him a donor & keep him leading us on and off the ice? To be tested call Renee Katter: 1-855-875-5185 #gooddeedscup #hockey #vancouver #Kidneydisease #OrganDonation pic.twitter.com/EkUjHwqPxK— vanminorpwa2 (@vanminorpwa2) January 3, 2019
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