Niagara Gazette — Suneel Ram has a dream, to one day become a professional sports announcer, but like anyone else, he has his obstacles to overcome.
He is the namesake for Suneel’s Light, an organization that aims to spread awareness and find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Only 16 years old, Suneel is much smaller than his peers at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, where he is learning be the announcer for his school’s athletic events.
Last year, the Niagara University ACHA Division 1 Hockey Team held a special surprise event at one of their games to honor Suneel, who the team has adopted as their “youngest brother.” He was given a jersey and brought out to center ice for the honors and to drop the puck. This year, they’ve decided to do it again.
He even got to go up to the press box with Assistant Coach Sam Cucinotta and announce a few plays. The hope is that he will be able to do that again this year.
“Suneel is the inspiration of so many,” said Jeannine Russell, who is involved with Suneel’s Light and also has a son on the NU hockey team. “Every day he goes through different physical therapies, occupational therapy and messages to keep his muscles going. He never complains.”
Russell says she got involved with Suneel’s Light several years ago, but it wasn’t until her son made the NU hockey team that she saw an opportunity to help while also emphasizing Suneel’s love for hockey.
This year, Suneel will be given the same honor at the NU game against their chief rival, the University at Buffalo, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 at Dwyer Arena.
The members of the hockey team are just as invested in helping out as those involved with Suneel’s Light. Russell says they always come to help out at different events the organization holds throughout the year.
“It’s great because and we know it makes him happy,” said 21-year-old Anthony Russell, Jeannine’s son. “He is definitely a happy, low-key kind of kid. Last year he had a smile from ear-to-ear. He was shocked and you could tell he really appreciated it.”
“The guys love him ... they go to his house and hang out,” said Larry Brzeczkowski, the team’s coach. “He is a true treasure, all of the guys get smiles on their faces when he comes around, he really brightens up their days. Makes them strive to play even harder.”
The event will raise funds for Suneel’s Light through a 50/50 drawing, all proceeds going to the organization. Jeannine says they might take just a little of that money and buy something nice for Suneel.
While Suneel has a long road ahead of him if he wants to become the next Rick Jeanerette, the community is certainly behind him.
“We love him so much and we just want to make him happy,” Jeannine said. “He’s like a good luck charm, the one time he was there and they didn’t win, he went into the locker room and he cheered them up. He always looks at the glass as half full.”