Standing in darkness as the sun began to rise on Sunday morning, Lyndsey Fry shed light on the 96-mile trek that she was about to embark upon beginning from Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Fry, a staple of hockey in the desert both on and off the ice in her various roles as radio color analyst, Coyotes ambassador, and in her work with the Arizona Kachinas, skated 96 miles on Sunday for the Coyotes Skatin’ For Leighton event, which honored the life of 9-year-old Coyotes super fan Leighton Accardo, who tragically passed away from cancer in November.
Fry’s journey encompassed the entire valley, starting in Phoenix at the Children’s Hospital around 7 a.m. and ending in the dark at Gila River Arena around 8:30 p.m.
Raising money for the Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund, the trip aimed to generate $49,000 for girls hockey in Arizona – a number that was set in honor of Accardo’s signature 49 that she wore on the ice.
Along with raising the funds, it was a unique celebration of life for a child who shed so much positivity for so many people in the Coyotes hockey community.
“Leighton loved meeting girls that played hockey and to bring more girls into the sport, it’s incredible,” said Leighton’s mom, Carly, of the outreach and money raised throughout the day. “It’s grown so much over the last few years here in Arizona so to have that and to help keep it going is incredible.”
In preparation of her skate, Fry skated between 5-10 miles on weekdays, and around 25-50 miles on weekends to get ready. Although some of the days were exhausting, one of the driving forces in her head was Accardo’s signature saying: “Skate hard, have fun.”
“At some point, this whole thing is going to become a mental battle,” Fry said prior to her departure on Sunday. “There’s only so much you can do physically…I think when I get into that mental dialogue with myself and joints are aching and things are starting to get hard, that’s when I’m going to hear Leighton saying those words of skate hard and have fun.”
It made the preparation that much easier knowing who Fry was skating for. She even had special rollerblades made ahead of her voyage on Sunday. Fry had a boot made by Bauer, while the chassis (which holds the wheels) was made by Marsblade. It allowed Fry to be more comfortable and cut down time while going from stop-to-stop on her trip.
Overall, there were eight destinations on Fry’s skate, with all eight coming at local ice rinks throughout the valley. Stops were made in Arcadia, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Peoria and Glendale. Through each pit stop, there was more support, with many signs, fans and kids cheering for every stop Fry made.
Tyson Nash and Shane Doan even made special appearances along the way, and Fry started her trip alongside Leighton’s siblings while leaving PCH.
Fry has been doing skates with Accardo’s older brother and younger sister in recent weeks and she remains in close contact with the family during a difficult time. For the Accardo’s and the rest of the Coyotes community, it was a very special day to honor Leighton’s legacy and how she touched so many others.
“The most rewarding part is that Leighton’s celebration of life was earlier this week. One of the things her mom said was when you’re the parent of a child who has passed away, your biggest fear is them being forgotten,” Fry said. “I think for me, the fact that so many people are talking about Leighton and this being as big of an event as it is, I think the most important part and the most meaningful is the fact that people are remembering Leighton.”
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When crossing the finish line at Gila River Arena, Fry had a huge smile, followed by a few tears when embracing Carly Accardo at the end of a long but rewarding day. It was a skate that was full of emotion and honored the life of someone who impacted so many in such a short amount of time.
“I think when we knew Leighton was as sick as she was and she was running out of time, it was kind of a no-brainer to shift it (the event) to being all about her and using her memory to make a positive impact in our community and ensure that her legacy lives on in so many ways,” Fry said. “In nine years she affected a lot more people than most of us will ever do in a lifetime.”