A special fund has been announced to honour the life of Ben Stelter, the spirited and courageous six-year-old Oilers fan who captured hearts across North America. The fund will support the fight to end cancer.
Ben passed away on Aug. 9 from an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumour.
Announcing the fund on Thursday, Ben’s dad Mike Stelter said he felt really proud.
“We want Ben’s name and his legacy to go on forever and I think this is the perfect way,” Mike said.
“Ben had such a big heart, was so generous, whether he was buying toys for the Stollery to put into their treasure chest for other kids to come get after they get blood work or needles or do something hard, or buying things for the Kids with Cancer house or buying Christmas toys with his own money, picking them with thought, for Salvation Army at Christmas.
“We want to keep Ben’s generous spirit and his love going — to do what we can and do as much as we can for other families,” Mike said.
“It means the world to us,” Ben’s mom Lea Stelter added. “Obviously Ben was the world to us and he was so special.
“His positive nature, and to be able to bring joy to other families, it’s so important to us to be able to help other families. It’s so important to us to help other families that are going through what we went through.”
The Ben Stelter Fund was kickstarted Thursday with $100,000 — donations from Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Edmonton entrepreneur (and Stelter family friend) Ashif Mawji.
“We’re inviting individuals, athletes, corporations to pledge as well as to donate, to create their own challenges and so forth, so we can get the fund massive,” Mawji explained.
“The idea behind the fund is four key pillars: magical experiences, medical equipment for families at home, outcome-based research and venture philanthropy.
“Those four pillars will be used short term and long term and the ultimate goal is to help fight cancer, but more importantly, to cure it.”
Lea said those magical experiences with her family uplifted them all and stay with them.
“The memories that we have are what keeps us going,” she said. “We were so fortunate for Ben’s whole fight that so many people loved and supported our family and just made sure that we had whatever we needed.”
Ben stole hearts across the city, team and hockey world during the NHL playoffs. He became a rallying point for the Oilers this past season as they advanced through the playoffs.
“His spirit will live on forever,” Mawji said on Aug. 19, the day of Ben’s memorial service. “He brought us hope, courage, perseverance, be your very best. Those traits will live on forever. I know the Oilers organization, the players, they will want a lasting legacy.
“I’m sure they’ll work with the family to make sure that legacy lives on… There will be something very special.”
Ben was just four when he was diagnosed. Despite being so young, he inspired others — even those fighting the difficult battle with cancer.
“One woman came up to him and said: ‘I didn’t want to come today for my treatment but then I remembered that you would be there and if you could do it, I could do it,'” Lea recalled.
“We want to be able to help.”
Their message to other families?
“Just keep fighting,” Lea said.
“Stay positive,” Mike added. “Have fun where you can, make fun out of life. Don’t wait for it to come to you.”