Bickell Charity Tournament twice as nice

NHL great Bryan Bickell can handle a hockey stick - and a flipping stick.

The two come together on Friday, September 11, at the First Annual Bryan Bickell Charity Tournament, held on Bangs Lake in Wauconda, Ill. The tournament will feature current Blackhawk players and Elite Series anglers coming together to raise money for both the Bryan and Amanda Bickell & Walter and Connie Payton Foundations.

The tournament will be even more special as it brings the two passions of one young man, Max Venchus, together. A lifelong Blackhawks fan and avid angler, Max was diagnosed with ALL (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) three years ago at age 12.

Max was always one of those natural athletes and never wanted to sit inside playing video games. He loved to be outdoors.

Doctors discovered he had a bicuspid heart valve (his heart only has two valves instead of three), so they didn’t want him playing anything too physical.

That was hard on him.

That’s when the family started talking about finding a new normal. Instead of baseball practice, riding bikes, playing catch and sleepovers, it was now weekly visits to the clinic, chemo treatments and pills - lots of pills - twice a day, morning and night.

Max always loved to fish, even when he was little. Family and friends would bring him fishing magazines to read when he was in the hospital.

When the Make-a-Wish Foundation approached him, Max said he would like to go fishing with four-time Bassmaster Classic champion and seven-time Angler of the Year, Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam.

VanDam was able to make that wish come true earlier this year. Then he helped bring the Blackhawks to Max.

On Friday, about four weeks prior to Max’s final treatment, he will jump into a Plano-sponsored boat and fish the Bryan Bickell Charity Tournament with one of the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawk players.

While the focus on the tournament is to raise money for two local Chicago Foundations, it also celebrates the passions and strength of an incredible young man.

Mike Iaconelli, John Murray, Dave Mercer and Mark Zona will be participating.

To find out more about the event, or make a donation, click here.