As Monroe High School ice hockey player Mikey Nichols continues to make "slow but steady" progress towards his recovery, support for the senior center, who suffered a broken neck in a game nine days ago, is rapidly gaining momentum.
Donations for the Nichols family, which have already surpassed $50,000 on a giveforward.com account (https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/xfr3/-prayformikey), are pouring in nationwide.
"It's been overwhelming," Monroe Athletics Director Greg Beyer said of the support for the Nichols family.
Beyer said Nichols' parents, Steven and Christine, are in the process of creating a nonprofit foundation for their son, who remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center following surgery on his fractured C5 vertebra.
"I don't know how long that's going to take," Beyer said of the foundation, "but once that happens, I think things will start to really take off."
Updates on Nichols' condition have moved to an official Facebook page (https://m.facebook.com/prayformikey23) from the ice hockey team's web site, which is now being used to promote fundraising efforts.
"Our son is a special young man that inspires us constantly," Nichols' parents recently posted on Facebook. "He continues to make progress towards his recovery. The progress is slow but steady. We take it little by little."
Steven Nichols told NBC-TV that his son said he could not "feel anything" following a headfirst collision with the boards in a Jan. 4 game against Vernon and that it is too early for doctors to know if his son will walk or skate again.
"On behalf of Mikey and our family, we are amazed by the support and love shown by all of Mikey's friends and supporters," a Facebook posting reads. "It truly helps us get through this time. Please continue to keep Mikey in your prayers, as we know that the prayers will be answered."
Nichols' supporters continue working tirelessly to spread the word about his injury and to raise money for the family.
Prominent NHL players, including Nichols' favorite, Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, have been using the now ubiquitous #PrayForMikey Twitter hashtag to send well wishes his way.
Players from youth leagues and high school teams across the state are adorning their helmets with purple and gold stickers bearing Nichols' No. 23 or are inscribing his name on other parts of their equipment.
Information about purchasing stickers and "Pray for Mikey" T-shirts - all proceeds will be donated to the Nichols family - can be obtained at the Monroe ice hockey team's official web site, http://www.monroefalconshockey.com/.
Opposing players from across New Jersey are meeting at center ice to partake in a moment of reflection for Nichols before the opening puck is dropped. Tables with large canisters to collect donations for the Nichols family have also been erected at games statewide.
Beyer said the number of teams that have donated proceeds from the gate and 50/50 drawings to the Nichols family "is astronomical." Such efforts are not limited to New Jersey.
According to cthshockey.blogspot.com, a web site covering scholastic hockey in Connecticut, Jen Guttman, a hockey mom with five children from Fairfield County, created the #50/50formikey hashtag to raise money for the Nichols' family. According to reports via Twitter, several high school teams in Connecticut have already combined to raise approximately $3,000.
"I think the camaraderie that the sport of hockey enjoys is unique," said Dave Fischer, a spokesman for USA Hockey, the sport's national governing body. "Our hearts and prayers go out to (Nichols) and his family."
Former NHL defenseman Bruce Driver, who led the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup in 1995, told New Jersey Press Media that he and others are, "looking with the Devils to do a few things to try to help the (Nichols') family out."
"The Devils organization certainly supports Mikey any way we can," said Driver's former Stanley Cup teammate Ken Daneyko, who is now a TV analyst. "Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with him. Hopefully he can battle through this and get back healthy, that's for sure.
"We want him to get better first and foremost, but we are going to be there for him and help him any way we can."