Between whistles, goal horns and hits, Portage's own Caleb Reykdal got the chance to pump up Winnipeg Jets fans at the Canada Life Centre for World Down Syndrome Day.
Caleb's mother, Kayla Reykdal, says that with her son having Down syndrome, her family tries to do something exciting to honour the day, which this year meant watching the Winnipeg Jets battle the Arizona Coyotes.
"My sister had reached out to the Winnipeg Jets through social media a few times, sending emails and messages just stating that we were actually going to be attending the game and if there was anything special, they could do for Caleb and people with Down syndrome to celebrate the day."
To Kayla's delight, the Jets responded, saying they would feature Caleb on the jumbotron to highlight World Down Syndrome Day.
"We didn't actually think it was going to be that big of a deal. It was pretty exciting, though, when they came down to our seats and called Caleb, stated his name and asked him to go up for an interview."
Kayla says the whole experience was one out of a storybook.
"He loves the Winnipeg Jets, and he loved hockey, and he was excited to answer all the questions, and then just the way the crowd responded was pretty special," continues the mother. "As a parent, sometimes you see people look at them differently, or other kids may just stare. So, in that moment, when everybody was rooting for him and on his side, it was pretty exciting to see."
Kayla adds that people even recognized Caleb from his jumbotron appearance during intermission.
"People were high-fiving him and fist-bumping him, and he was so excited,"
As the video made its way around social media from the Winnipeg Jets media team, Kayla says the family started to get messages from people telling how much they enjoyed seeing Caleb get the crowd going.
While the Jets aren't the only team in the NHL to recognize the day, Caleb's mother notes she appreciates that the Jets went the extra mile.
Matt Nieto’s sister, Erin, has Down syndrome and autism. Erin is his biggest fan and despite being non-verbal, she can say 20 words including Matt’s number, 83.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 21, 2023
Throughout his career, Matt has prioritized philanthropic efforts on families of children with special needs.… pic.twitter.com/9GKmIX2Jr6
"I definitely think it's been a dream come true for him, and he just loved The Jets, so it was pretty special."
World Down Syndrome Day is marked every year on March 21st to signify the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome.
Today is World Down Syndrome Day and we're proud to support @heroshockey with #RockYourHKYSocks - a campaign to create conversation about diversity and inclusion, that we can all be unique in our own way and do the same thing.— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 21, 2021
Use the hashtag and show off your socks today! pic.twitter.com/oze4zilz1o