Chris’s Front Row Experience: Philadelphia Flyers NHL Game
Chris Casey is a calm and humble guy, who is loved by everyone who knows him. He is a husband to Theresa and father of four outstanding and respectful children. He lights up when you ask him about his children, and it’s clear he is an engaged and passionate Dad.
He cherishes his entire family and loves spending time with them, both at home and at the Jersey Shore where he was raised.
From watching his four kids play sports, to even coaching his son’s hockey team—Chris is quite the sports nut. They love their hometown Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Flyers, and always watch the games together. His #1 passion though, is hockey: playing, coaching, listening on the radio, watching on TV, watching live—you name it.
So, in the summer of 2013 when Chris had fallen ill, it was quite a surprise since he had always been an active and healthy guy.
It was a couple of days before the 4th of July weekend in 2013 when Chris fell ill at the end of a workday. He thought it was the flu. So, he took some medicine and departed with his family for a vacation getaway at the Jersey Shore. But things were not improving whatsoever, even days later. He visited his family physician, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. A few weeks later, the flu-like symptoms persisted. His physician then recommended a chest X-ray, and consequently, some very shocking results were discovered: Chris had a baseball-sized tumor inside his chest cavity behind his right shoulder blade. Everyone was in a complete state of shock, including Chris.
Fast forward to March 2015. It has been almost two years now, and Chris Casey has been battling cancer—every single day, day in and day out, without relief. He has endured painful biopsies, a Stage I sarcoma diagnosis, a Stage IV High Grade Pleomorphic Sarcoma diagnosis, complicated surgeries, 30 cycles of harsh radiation, aggressive chemotherapy treatments, hair loss, weight loss, and hundreds of hospital visits.
All the while, Chris’s family and friends rallied around him like nothing he had ever seen. Chris’s wife will openly tell you that she prayed that good people be placed in their path through this journey. And two years later, she says that is exactly what has happened. People have delivered home cooked meals, driven the kids to and from sports games, and helped out around their home. People have held fundraisers to pay the medical bills, and even gifted them with gift cards and school supplies. They had never seen such an outpouring of love in their lives.
One person, in particular who has dedicated himself to helping The Casey family, is Harry Dumas; one of Chris’s fellow kids’ hockey coaches. Harry applied for Chris to receive a Front Row Experience to see his favorite team of all time, the Philadelphia Flyers. Upon reviewing his application, two things were blatantly obvious: Chris Casey is a loved man and he is a raving fan of the Flyers! Harry, along with close friend Trent Booth, led an on-line fundraising campaign to create Chris’s Front Row Experience. They also worked hard behind the scenes with Front Row Foundation Event Directors to assure this event was a total success. Several weeks later Chris was learning about his selection to become a Front Row Recipient. Watch his Surprise Ticket Unveil here.
Leading up to Chris’s big day, Front Row team members were fortunate enough to meet with The Caseys in their home. Listen to them talk here about how thankful they are for the opportunity to have a Front Row Experience.
Chris’s big day finally arrived and everyone was so excited to spend the day together at the Flyers game in a private, fully catered, Suite—overlooking the middle of the ice rink! Accompanying Chris: Theresa and their four children, his three sisters, and childhood buddy. The whole gang was looking sharp!
Before leaving The Casey’s home, we surprised Chris with some very cool news: Harry had arranged for Chris and 3 guests to attend the postgame Press Conference with Flyers head coach, Craig Berube. He was super excited about this, but Chris’s young son Chris Jr. was by far the most excited!
It was a gloomy, rainy day, and the temps were brisk, but that did not damper anyone’s enthusiasm for the day ahead. After some quick photos in front of the luxurious Mercedes Limousine Bus, we jumped in and were off to South Philly for some hockey mayhem.
Inside the limo, Chris opened a giant bag of goodies, which included: Flyers Fathead stickers, Flyers hats, NHL socks, family games, and even a Cheesecake Factory gift card for he and Theresa to use on a ‘date night’ together.
Then came the customized cookies — shaped like Flyers jerseys and other hockey gear. Everyone got a kick out of these personalized treats.
Inside the plush limo, everyone was relaxing, chatting away, and munching on all the snacks. When—all of a sudden—the limo appeared to be going the wrong direction. We had some tricks up our sleeves for the day ahead, and we needed to stall a little so that we did not arrive at the Wells Fargo Center too early. Senior Event Director, Shannon Coon, told the group that the chauffeur was likely taking a quicker route to avoid the St. Patrick’s Day Parade festivities, and everyone fell for it!
We made a quick stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for some photos atop the famous “Rocky steps” featured in all the Rocky movies. Our chauffeur drove around to the back of the massive limestone museum, and entered through the employee parking lot. Following the steep, narrow, private tree-lined drive all the way to the top of a hill.
Upon exiting the limo, the rain poured down, but it did not matter—Chris and his family were taking in the stunning view of a foggy Philadelphia skyline off in the distance. Chris’s son and sister decided to run the steps just like Rocky had done in the movies.
After about 15 minutes of fun, we jumped back into the limo to dry off and head to the Wells Fargo Center.
The limo was alive with chatter and laughter. The energy was thick with excitement! Chris’s three sisters and best friend, Mike, were reminiscing about growing up on the Jersey Shore, and how they learned how to ice skate. Exchanging story after story, everyone was cracking up.
Arriving at the Wells Fargo Center in a luxurious Mercedes Limousine Bus made heads turn. We walked up a large ramp into the private and exclusive VIP Entrance.
We passed by crowds of Flyers fans as we made our way to the security checkpoint to enter the elite Suite level.
Now, it was time for the real surprise of the day…. And the reason we needed to stall earlier…
Upon entering the Suite, Chris was surprised by a huge group of boys he coaches hockey for!!!
His jaw dropped to the floor as he turned that corner and made his way through the doorway. Kids were cheering, adults were sobbing, and every single person was smiling! Chris was being hugged and greeted by kids, parents, and close friends. There was so much joy in that room; much welcomed by a family who had been through so much in the past two years.
Chris’s good friend, and fellow coach, Harry (who applied for Chris), orchestrated the entire surprise. Chris’s hockey team kids mean the world to him, and he later told us that he had no clue they would be there.
The boys thoroughly enjoyed their time with “Coach Chris.” They watched the Flyers warm up before heading to their own Suite for a pizza lunch.
The lunch spread was serious: BLT Salad, Eggplant Parmigiana, Pretzel Crusted Crab Cakes, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Green Beans, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Pizza, and even Warm Apple Cobbler with ice cream. There was no chance anyone would leave hungry. Chris sat with his family and enjoyed some food while watching the start of the game.
Midway into the first period, Jim Nelson of Comcast-Spectator’s Premium Seating Department, came by to hand deliver a large autographed canvas to Chris. It was signed by famous Flyers Ambassador Alum, Bernie Parent. Chris was blown away at such a cool gift.
Back on the ice, the game was off to a great start—the Flyers took an early lead and continued to dominate the Detroit Red Wings for the entire two hours.
Then, who showed up to Chris’s Suite? None other than the famous Flyers Ambassador Alum Dave Schultz! Everyone swarmed around him for a photo, and to sneak a glimpse of his diamond laden playoff ring.
At this point, Chris was permanently wearing a smile and could not believe all the VIP treatment he was receiving—plus his Flyers were playing the game of their lives and trouncing on the Red Wings.
The game came to a close and the Flyers celebrated a 7-2 victory over the Red Wings. It was time for Chris to say his goodbyes so he could be escorted down into the locker-room area for the Craig Berube postgame Press Conference.
We were shuffled beyond security checkpoints with ease, thanks to Senior Management from the Flyers Community Relations Department. Chris zigzagged through doorways, and a labyrinth of dimly lit hallways beneath the stadium’s seating.
Suddenly, we turned a corner and saw a black curtain. We lifted it, and bright lights shone on our faces—there we were standing at the front of the press conference room where Craig Berube would be speaking.
We took our chairs in the back behind all of the media representatives, and within minutes, Coach Berube was on stage taking his first question.
Chris watched intently as the coach remained ‘as cool as a cucumber’ while media representatives blazed him with questions about the game strategy, the players, and upcoming games. After 15 intense minutes, Coach Berube wrapped up and vanished behind that elusive black curtain.
“That was pretty cool,” Chris said. The giant grin on his face said it all!
Exiting the press conference area with our escort, we made our way back through the labyrinth of hallways, until surfacing on the main concourse which was completely crowd-free now.
We reunited with the rest of the group at the Cadillac Grille inside the Wells Fargo Center, for some celebratory drinks to toast a successful and fun day in honor of Chris. It was a wonderful end to a tremendously memorable day together.
The rain had stopped as we made our way out the VIP exit to our limo. Everyone was chattering about the Flyers’ win and what a blast the day was.
“The whole day was great,” Chris said. “But, one of the best parts was seeing the whole [kids hockey] team. Oh, and the [Flyers’] win!”
Arriving back at The Casey’s home, we presented Chris with one final gift: a small canvas—signed by every single person who had been at his Front Row Experience. Everyone simultaneously gasped and smiled.
And Chris fittingly said, “This really is the best day ever.”
It was truly an honor to manage your Front Row Experience for you. I loved spending this day with you and your amazing family. I will never forget the fun we had. And yes, even though my hometown Detroit Red Wings got trounced by the Flyers — it was still a magical and memorable day! We hope you will always look back on this day and smile. Take care and remember to always “Live Life in the Front Row!”
Your friend, Shannon