Mother of NHL Hockey Star Donates Kidney to Ice Rink Manager who Kept her Kids Out of Trouble


To make it in any professional sport takes skill, determination, and practice. Having someone who believes in you and goes out of their way to help can be the difference between living the dream or hanging up your skates.

Throughout the many years that Graham Nesbitt managed the local skating arena in Seaforth, Ontario, he routinely went above and beyond the call of duty—opening the rink early, staying late, and even in the face of snowstorms—to ensure neighborhood kids could get in as many hours on the ice as possible.

No-one is more aware of or as grateful for Nesbitt’s dedication than Bonnie O’Reilly. Her two sons, Ryan and Cal, who skated under Nesbitt’s watchful eye, both went on to play in the NHL.

Ryan captains the Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues. Cal is currently on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ roster.

Even though he retired from the Seaforth rink in 2003, when the community learned Nesbitt needed a kidney donation, local folks lined up to be tested to see if they might be a match. One of those people was Bonnie O’Reilly.

Nesbitt was diagnosed with Berger’s disease nine years ago. A progressive condition that lessens the kidneys’ ability to filter blood, by 2019 the medication keeping his illness under check was no longer working. A kidney transplant became the 65-year-old’s only option for survival.

Once O’Reilly learned she was a match, the only thing left to be done was arrange for the surgery. “She says that ‘What you’ve done for my boys, helping them achieve their goal of playing professional hockey, it’s the least we can do,’” Nesbitt’s son Joe said quoting O’Reilly in a conversation with CBC.

The transplant took place just a couple of weeks ago, on March 3. Both O’Reilly and Nesbitt came through the procedure in good form and were soon on their way to recovery.

Nesbitt’s wife, Pam, deeply touched by O’Reilly’s generosity, posted her thanks on Facebook: “From our family to you and yours Bonnie, thanks for the gift of a lifetime…Your selfless act means more than you’ll ever know.”

“Something my dad’s always taught me is to be kind and helpful and generous to everybody,” Joe Nesbitt told CBC. “It just goes to show that those thoughtful acts and caring for people, it pays off. It truly paid off for my dad and saved his life.”

So, why is good Karma like an ice rink, you ask? Because what goes around comes around.