Michael Labonte, or “Mikey,” was known as the life of the party; a memorial hockey game held in his honour brought crowds together in a boisterous celebration of his life.
The memorial game would have been “right up his alley,” his uncle and caregiver Harvey Falk said.
“He would have just loved this. He’s watching from heaven – he’s living it, right now. He loved attention, he loved a good time and he’d always be right in the center of it,” Falk said.
Labonte was diagnosed with brain cancer in the spring, and after fighting for several months he lost his battle – Labonte died on Oct. 23 at 16 years old.
Last Wednesday night Niagara-on-the-Lake Minor Hockey hosted a special midget local league game and fundraiser in honour of Labonte’s memory at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil.
One of the game’s organizers Christine Lett said the event was planned to celebrate him and bring his friends and family together. Turnout was much higher than she would have expected, she said.
“We expected maybe 100 people or so, but there’s so many more than that here.”
“He loved the game of hockey, he loved being with people – so we wanted this opportunity for people to come together in a game that he loved,” Lett said.
Last year Labonte, sporting "number two" was a player on the league’s midget team. His jersey was placed on a chair in the center of the ice for a ceremonial puck drop before the game.
“Some of us still have kids on that team, we wanted to celebrate through the game,” she added.
The family requested any money raised during the memorial event and fundraiser be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities, she said.
“It’s an organization we recently had a lot of experience with this past year which had a big impact on us,” Falk said.
About $5,000 was raised during the event. Crowds of teenagers, family and friends all came out to pay their respects, honour his memory and raise money for the charity. The referees donated their wages for the game back into the fundraiser.
“He loved to laugh, he loved to be at parties, and he loved to be at the centre of parties. Other than that, he was a typical teenager. He had a messy room didn’t like chores, and always a mischievous twinkle in his eye,” Falk said.