Flyers Alumni Play to Honor Lasting Memory of Jeff Burd
By Bill Meltzer
Founded six years ago to honor the 2004 meningitis-related passing of 16-year-old Cherokee Chiefs hockey player Jeff Burd, the annual Alumni Memorial Game played in his honor has grown into a means of turning tragedy into a way to help others and support worthy causes. This year's Memorial will be the biggest in the event's history.
On December 28, 2014, the Flyers Alumni will play a benefit game against the Cherokee Chiefs at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to support four charities:the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund, the National Meningitis Association, USA Wounded Warriors and Wings of Steel Sled Hockey.
Scott McKay, the event's co-organizer and longtime Chiefs coach, recalls Jeff fondly.
"Jeff was a great kid with wonderful parents; a coach's dream," said McKay. "He never missed a practice or a game. He was reliable, respectful, and mature, and had a good work ethic. He was a bright kid, too, and a good student in school."
Jeff's death hit McKay hard. Ten years later, he still becomes emotional when talking about the circumstances of the young man's passing from meningitis.
"It came so suddenly. Jeff called me on a Wednesday night and said, 'Coach, I just can't make it tonight.' Now, he hadn't missed a practice in six years," McKay recounts.
"I told him not to worry and it was no problem. But I wanted to know what was wrong, because I knew there had to be a reason. I asked him if he had a big project due at school or a test. Jeff said no, he wasn't feeling well and felt like he had the flu and was just very run down. We had a game on Friday and I told him to just let me know before then if he was feeling better and could make it.
"Jeff said his mom, Sue, was going to make him some chicken soup and he was going to lie down He wasn't going to go to school the next day. After that, he figured he would be better."
That was the last time Scott McKay spoke with Jeff Burd, who passed away from a form of the fast-spreading and often fatal inflammation of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord known as meningitis. Understandably, the family was devastated.
"Jeff's dad, Pete, still comes to as many of our games as he can but it's too painful for his mom. However, she does come to the Alumni Memorial," said McKay.
Now in its sixth year, the Jeff Burd Memorial benefit game has grown in scope and participation each year. Flyers Hall of Fame inductee, Brian Propp, who has known McKay for 35 years, offered to help arrange for the participation of the Flyers Alumni. McKay and the Chiefs gratefully accepted.
"Scott is my best friend, and he has known a lot of the Flyers and Flyers Alumni for many years. It was the least we could do to honor Jeff's memory and raise some money for four worthy causes," said Propp.
The Jeff Burd Memorial Fund is an educational fund co-created by the Burd family. Each year, donations and matching funds for college are awarded to the Cherokee Chiefs player with the highest academic performance in school.
The benefit game at the Skate Zone will start at 3:40 p.m. and run until 5:10 p.m. There will be an after-party from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Victory Bar and Grill in West Berlin, NJ (795 Route 73, phone 856-768-5454). A $15 donation is requested for the Alumni Game, a $20 donation to the after-party or $30 for both.
For more information on the Jeff Burd Memorial Alumni Game, donations, or sponsorship opportunities, contact Scott McKay (phone 609-377-6866
) or Joe Ligeikis (phone 609-230-9766