Heartfelt reunion at Calgary hockey tournament
Families of Marit McKenzie and recipient of her heart meet at annual Marit Cup
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A lone goalie in a green jersey takes his post at one end of the rink, waiting for the puck to drop, the start of what may well be the most memorable game of his life.
The goalie, Tanner Fitzpatrick, a 17-year-old from Burin, N.L., journeyed all the way to Calgary to play in the Marit Cup, a charity hockey game named in honour of Marit McKenzie, whose heart was now beating in his chest.
“It’s his heart now,” said Bruce McKenzie, Marit’s father.
During the last of her 18 years, Marit, a student at Calgary Christian School, was inspired to raise funds through the sales of her artwork to donate to the David Foster Foundation, a charity that supports the families of children who undergo organ transplants.
“She raised $500 and sent [the David Foster Foundation] a letter and a cheque, and then six months later she passed away,” said Susan McKenzie, Marit’s mother.
It was only a few months prior, when Marit was 17, that she asked for her mother’s signature to approve her decision to become an organ donor.
In January of 2013, Marit died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism.
Her final wish was granted, and her heart made the journey to Toronto, where Tanner Fitzpatrick was awaiting a transplant. He had been on the organ donor registry for just a week after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy a few months earlier.
After the transplant, Marit’s family reached out to the Fitzpatricks through an anonymous letter, expressing an interest in meeting Tanner.
“In that letter were two references: David Foster Foundation and hockey game,” said Trudy Fitzpatrick, Tanner’s mother. The teen did a quick Google search, and learned about the Marit Cup.
The family followed the tournament online until last year, when Tanner decided he was ready to lace up for the big game.
“So we said, ‘We’ll make that happen, kid,’” said Trudy Fitzpatrick.
After an emotional meeting in Nov. 2016, the two families felt there was an immediate connection.
Though Marit was never a sports fan, Bruce McKenzie said she and Tanner shared “uncanny similarities.”
“It makes me feel good to know where she is,” said Susan McKenzie.