Rob Wetterholt Jr.
Goals. Assists. Wins. Losses. Shots on goal. Goals against. Game winning goals.
in the world of ice hockey are the pulse of a team and its players. Statistics give clues as to who’s hot and who’s not. Ice hockey statistics are studied with the same amount of scrutiny that a doctor exercises when he receives results from a patient’s lab test.
While statistics are able to paint a complete picture of an ice hockey team’s accomplishments on the ice, there are no statistics that can ever account for the amount of work and dedication that players exhibit off the ice toward their families and the communities that they live in.
What’s remarkable about Brett Beebe is that he isn’t just another statistic when he steps onto the ice at Lawson Ice Arena on a Friday or Saturday night in front of thousands of fans. His accomplishments off the ice will never be able to be quantified, or turned into some statistic.
Beebe has helped children with disabilities in Kalamazoo Special Olympics programs. He and fellow teammates helped refurbish a local man’s house. He’s raised money and awareness about diseases that have affected himself, his family, and many of his friends. All of this work off the ice has helped Beebe become a finalist for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award.
The Early Years
Education first. Parent’s orders.
“My mom set an example for me that sometimes people have to step up when they’re not asked to just to make sure that everything runs smoothly,” Beebe said.
Brett Beebe has always held a special place in his heart for this mother who died in July 2012 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. One of the biggest influences in his life, Beebe remembers his mother as one of the most inspirational and influential people he has ever known.
“She was extremely active in the community, whether it was a sports team that I played on or at my kindergarten through eighth grade school,” Beebe said. “She worked there and was always really involved with the kids. No one had to ask her to do anything, things just got done.”
Another inspiration for Beebe was the hockey scene in southern California. When most people hear that Brett is from Redondo Beach, California, hockey isn’t the first thing that immediately comes to mind.
“Youth hockey back in California is nothing to be joked about,” Beebe said.
When he was three years old, Beebe strapped on a pair of roller blades in an attempt to be like his older neighbors who played for the L.A. Junior Kings. Hooked on hockey, by age seven Beebe and seven of his friends formed a travel roller hockey team.
In 2000, the Los Angeles Kings built a beautiful practice facility ten minutes from his house. When that happened, Beebe made the switch from roller hockey to ice hockey.
Impressed by the visibility and class of the Los Angeles Kings organization, from the coaches to the players, Beebe always admired how the Kings gave back to the community and got kids involved in hockey in southern California.
Becoming a True Athlete in Waterloo, Iowa
United States Hockey League. Waterloo Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks organization was very involved in the community and it was with this team that Beebe was able to see what it meant to be a true athlete.
“You have to be more than just trying to better yourself,” Beebe said. “You have time to better yourself on the rink and in the weight room and then you still have time to help others if that’s your calling. They taught me how to be a true professional.”
Helping Others in Kalamazoo, Mich.
When Beebe entered Western Michigan University as a freshman in 2009, it was as if he assumed the persona of a professional athlete immediately upon arrival on campus.
“Coach Culhane was huge getting the players involved in the community,” Beebe said. “As a freshman you wanted to make sure that you’re signing yourself up for those community service opportunities.”
Beebe’s first opportunity to give back to the Kalamazoo community was when he served as a basketball coach for a group of Special Olympic athletes.
“The kids were unbelievable,” Beebe said. “They were just like you. They wanted to play sports and have a great time. Once I did that, I couldn’t get enough of helping out here in the community because there are so many great people. The parents would tell me about how the kids would wear their basketball uniforms to school and how this was their one thing for the week that they get to do to get excited for.”
Blessed doesn’t begin to describe how Beebe felt during this opportunity.
Taking on the role of finding ways to get the hockey team involved in the community seemed to come naturally to Beebe. When a Kalamazoo resident purchased a house for $6,000 and was attempting to turn his life around after a period of drug use followed by jail time, Beebe and three other teammates stepped up and offered whatever help they could to renovate the house.
“The dad would teach us how to do everything,” Beebe said. “We stripped the floors and then redid them. We redid an entire kitchen. We painted everywhere. We sanded stuff. We learned how to put all of this different type of stuff together. It went both ways. I think that that’s how it works here in the Kalamazoo community. You go to help others and in turn they help you.”
When Beebe learned that he was nominated as a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award based on his extensive work within the Kalamazoo community, humbled is the only word that came to his mind.
In addition to being nominated as a finalist for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, Beebe was the recipient of a $250 check from the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation for donation to a charity of his choice. Beebe chose to have the money donated to Cure Duchenne in honor of WMU ice hockey assistant coach Rob Facca’s Ice Duchenne organization which has helped raise awareness about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
A Lasting Memory
Throughout all of his volunteer work, ice hockey games and schooling, Beebe has always kept his mother in his thoughts.
“I watched my mom battle cancer for three years and she wasn’t given three years to live,” Beebe said. “She was given a lot shorter than that. She found a way to not only balance being sick from chemo and being drained of energy, but she worked up until three weeks before she passed away. She worked and she was involved with the community. She was helping out every day. She was with kids. She was a lot of kids’ second mom. Three thousand people were at her funeral.”
In Beebe’s mind, there’s always enough time to help people after observing the selfless actions of his mother.
“It’s always in the back of my mind. Whether you’re tired and don’t want to get out of bed for class or practice in the morning, or maybe you’re out there on a shift for a game and you’ve been out there for a minute and you’re exhausted and you’ve got to back-check, you can’t tell me that you can’t find a little bit of energy to get back there and help out your team. That’s something that’s definitely going to carry me through life, especially in difficult situations.”