Support, from prayers and well wishes to hundreds of thousands of dollars, has flooded in for a Milton Academy hockey player, whose dreams of playing at the collegiate level were dashed following a severe, on-ice injury on Saturday that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Jake Thibeault, 18, of Fitchburg, fractured two vertebrae in an on-ice collision and suffered a small brain bleed, according to an online fundraiser established for him by the Greg Hill Foundation.
“Jake is tough, is overflowing with grit and is determined to walk again. But he is scared beyond belief,” Jake’s father, Michael Thiebeault, wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “Losing hockey and his dream of playing collegiately, which we now know for certain was happening, is soul crushing for him.”
Donations and encouragement for Jake’s road to recovery have, however, abounded in recent days, including a GoFundMe campaign that garnered over $254,000 in 24 hours.
“The Boston Bruins are keeping Jake Thibeault in our hearts today,” the Bruins said in a statement on Tuesday. “We offer our full support and well wishes to Jake, his family, and the rest of the Milton Academy hockey community.”
Kevin Lizotte, who launched the GoFundMe effort and coached Jake when he played for the Worcester Junior Railers and other teams, wrote on the online fundraiser page that Jake “embodies the Milton Mustang’s motto ‘Dare to be true.’”
“He is a true gentleman, a true athlete, a true student, a true teammate, and a true friend,” he wrote.
According Lizotte, Jake played with his son on the Blues Leominster Dek Hockey team, and also played for Twin City Youth Hockey, Fitchburg High School, the Boston Bulldogs, and the South Shore Kings, among numerous other travel teams.
“What makes Jake an outstanding hockey player has less to do with skills and skating and so much more to do with character,” Lizotte wrote. “Jake is among the most dedicated, hard working student athletes. He has more grit and perseverance than most 18-year-olds. Most importantly, he is the ultimate teammate. He’s the first to pass the puck to set up a perfect scoring opportunity for (a) teammate and the first kid to provide backup if someone is disrespecting his team.
“He is positive and encouraging to others both on and off the ice,” he added.
Michael Thibeault shared links to both fundraising campaigns on Facebook, and wrote that each was established to support Jake’s future care.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Greg Hill Foundation initiative had eclipsed $31,400, easily surpassing the foundation’s pledge to match all donations up to $5,000.
Donations for the GoFundMe campaign on Tuesday poured in at a rate of tens of thousands of dollars in merely a few hours, surpassing its $250,000 goal in the afternoon.
“The entire South Shore Kings organization is praying for Jake Thibeault,” the South Shore Kings wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Jake