By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Cancer survivor Casey Wright has met countless celebrities in his young life but none has literally swept him off his feet as veteran jockey Richard Hamel did last Saturday afternoon at Hastings Racecourse.
Having been introduced in the private jockeys dressing quarters by former rider Tommy Wolski, Western Director of the Jockeys’ Benefit Association of Canada, Casey was in his normal footwear when he arrived but left in a shiny new pair of Hamel’s initialed riding boots.
“They didn’t come off until we arrived home about 8 o’clock later that night,” Casey’s father Larry said. “He went to bed planning to wear them to school.”
Well-known for his ongoing fund-raising initiatives primarily on behalf of the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, Casey was diagnosed with a brain tumour at six months of age. Today at 17, he has survived nine surgeries with the most recent to remove a tumour that was causing him to go blind but doctors were able to remove 95 per cent of it and he regained eyesight in one eye.
“He’s an amazing kid,” Hamel says. “He went through the room meeting the other jockeys and I could see he was really enjoying himself. He was in his glory.
“Giving him the boots just seemed like the right thing to do. A friend of mine made them for me but they were a little tight. They were sitting up on a shelf and needed a good home. When I met Casey, I figured it was the right time and place.”
Over the years Casey has co-hosted Sunshine Dreams for Kids Christmas parties and has been a regular guest on Global TV’s Children’s Hospital Telethon. He’s been actively involved in the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program and is the only civilian in Canada to hold the rank of Honourary Staff Sargeant Major, awarded by the Commissioner of the RCMP.
About to win his third consecutive riding title and fifth in his career at Hastings, Hamel has been the face of the local racetrack throughout the 2017 season heading into the final week with 75 wins. “It’s been a great year,” Hamel says, “and meeting Casey made it that much greater.”