Columbus Blue Jackets to hold annual ‘Kids Takeover’ game

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Those attending the Columbus Blue Jackets game Saturday might notice young leadership. It’s the annual Kids Takeover game where the Blue Jackets celebrate the youngest members of the Fifth Line.

This game allows children the opportunity to step into the shoes of Blue Jackets professionals and gives them a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put on a professional hockey game.

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Throughout the game, kids will take on various roles like, kid coach, anthem singer and cannon crew.

The role of kid coach will be 8-year-old Riley Sallet. Sallet is a current participant in the Blue Jackets Foundation’s 2023 Class of Pediatric Cancer Heroes. Sallet was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilm Tumor, a rare kidney cancer most common in children. 9-year-old Leo Szabrak and his 6-year-old sister, Ruby, will serve as members of the cannon crew.

This year’s national anthem singer is 14-year-old Lila Urbanic. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Wilms Tumor at 11 years old.

“You don’t ever picture that you’re just someone, like you’re just an ordinary person, you don’t go around and think you have these big, scary diseases. So, you just couldn’t really imagine it when it was happening, it didn’t feel real for a while,” Urbanic said.

She was diagnosed in October of 2021. After a nearly 8-month battle, she rang the bell, celebrating being cancer free.

“That was really incredible. I spent so long in the hospital, so long alone and just worrying that things could happen or complications could arise,” Urbanic said.

Fighting pediatric cancer is one thing the Blue Jackets Foundation is passionate about. The Kids Takeover game gives kids a chance to not think about their fight and be a normal kid.

This isn’t the first time Urbanic has sung the national anthem. She has had a love for singing  for as long as she could remember. She used to take lessons until her cancer diagnosis put a pause on it.

However, the Blue Jackets reached out and asked if she’d perform in the 2022 Kids Takeover game.

“To see her able to get up in front of a crowd and to see how much she enjoys once she gets started, how much she enjoys performing, it’s really a lot of fun,” said her dad, Sean.

NBC4 asked Urbanic what it was like to perform in front of hundreds of fans.

“I think the best thing is that all of the crew and my family and the Fifth Line, everybody, even if I screw up royally out there, they’re always so gung ho and they’ll congratulate me as if I did the best performance they have ever heard,” Urbanic said.

She said the Blue Jackets put a lot of emphasis on reaching out to the community and making kids feel special, which means a lot to her.

“The ability to kind of step back from that for just a moment and have some fun and just live like a kid who does not have cancer, and just be a normal kid,” Urbanic said.

She’s cancer free but requires on-going management of Chronic Kidney Disease and Deep Vein Thrombosis resulting from the cancer. Despite everything, Urbanic has kept a smile on her face.

“The resilience that she has shown is really remarkable,” said Sean. “Obviously, the treatment days were extremely challenging and there was a lot of uncertainty involved in the treatment process, but she has always maintained a positive attitude.”

The Blue Jackets will host the Nashville Predators at 12:30 p.m. The afternoon will be filled with activities for all ages. The School of Rock Bands from Dublin and Gahanna will be located on the terrace at the McConnell Street Entrance before the puck drop, during intermissions and post-game.

“Cancer is a part of you,” Urbanic said. “It’s like a scar. It’s going to hurt for a little while and it’s going to be part of you, but after a little while, it’ll fade and it’ll always be a part of you, but it will never be all of you.”

There will also be fun activities throughout the concourse such as: face painting and balloon artists. The first 5,000 kids will even receive a CBJ sticker sheet.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to NBC4 WCMH-TV.