After Graham Nesbitt, the former manager of the local arena, helped her kids — and future NHLers — get in extra ice time after hours growing up in Seaforth, Ont., Bonnie O'Reilly has returned the favour.
Bonnie, the mother of St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly and Lehigh Valley Phantom forward Cal O'Reilly, donated one of her kidneys to Nesbitt — who was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, in 2011 — earlier this week, according to CBC News. They are both recovering well.
"From our family to you and yours, Bonnie, thanks for the gift of a lifetime. Your selfless act means more than you’ll ever know," Pam Nesbitt, Graham Nesbitt's wife, wrote in a Facebook post.
People living with Berger's disease experience the buildup of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their kidneys, which results in inflammation that can, over time, hamper their ability to filter waste from their blood.
Medication helped control Nesbitt's condition, but in 2019, it became clear the 65-year-old needed a transplant and many in Seaforth and nearby Clinton, Ont., answered the call, including O'Reilly.
"(O'Reilly) says that 'What you've done for my boys, helping them achieve their goal of playing professional hockey, it's the least we can do,'" Joe Nesbitt, Graham Nesbitt's son, quoting O'Reilly told CBC News.
"My dad is just blown away by this."
To Joe Nesbitt, O'Reilly's kindness and compassion is indicative of the tight bond that can be formed through hockey.
"Your team growing up, you become more than just a team, you kind of become family," he told CBC News. "It's kind of left me speechless.
"Something my dad's always taught me is to be kind and helpful and generous to everybody," he said. "It just goes to show that those thoughtless acts and caring for people, it pays off. It truly paid off for my dad and saved his life."