Superheroes to get their due on Sunday

By Craig Westcott/January 13, 2023

Sammy Porter’s family are hoping for a big crowd Sunday as they publicly thank the “superheroes” who tried valiantly to save their six-year-old son’s life during a swimming tragedy last summer at The Still in Seal Cove.

‘Superhero Night’ at the CBS Arena on Sunday afternoon will also be a chance to hold a fundraiser on behalf of Sammy’s Climb Higher Foundation, a charity started by the family to help families struggling with the means to enroll their children in sports and arts groups.

The scene for the activities will be an Avalon East Senior Hockey League game between the host Conception Bay Blues and the visiting Harbour Grace Stars. The event gets underway at 2:30 p.m. with the salute to the superheroes kicking it off. 

Children and adults are encouraged to wear their own superhero outfits to the game.

“We’re hoping to get a fair-sized crowd,” said one of the organizers, Paul Connors, who was a great uncle to Sammy. “Word is spreading about it, and Angie and Steve (Sammy’s parents) have a lot of friends in minor hockey and things like that that they’re hoping to get out there. But I think the community is still mourning or wanting to show their support to the family. So hopefully we’ll get a fair-sized crowd out there.”

Sammy Porter, who loved hockey, baseball and every other kind of sport, was tragically lost to his family on July 17. 

“He was six years old, and he had a huge love for sports,” Connors said. “He took to it instinctively. He was a natural at it. He just loved sports. But probably a bigger part of it for him was meeting his friends at the softball field or the rink, or whatever he was involved with. And he was always there to help his friends out. He always tried to encourage people. Some of the words used (by others) to describe him were ‘brave, determined, adventurous, kind.’ Without him knowing it, he motivated and challenged his friends. He was an inspiration to others, and we still hear that today, how Sammy inspired his friends, cousins, classmates to move out of their comfort zone and to do things they probably wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Sammy was especially known for his love of climbing.

“That was his trademark,” said Connors. “Once he was old enough to crawl he figured out how to climb things. He climbed everything. I saw him climb up door frames, trees were his specialty, but he climbed on anything.”

It was that love of climbing that inspired the name for the foundation established in his memory. When the family was looking for a title, Sammy’s older brother Aiden suggested ‘Climb Higher,’ because it so suited his little brother.

The foundation raises money to help families – of any income level – who are struggling with the cost of enrolling their children in extracurricular activities. It also helps sports and other groups that serve children to buy equipment and supplies.

“To be honest, that was something that Sammy did talk about,” said Connors. “Even at the young age of six he often questioned why some children were unable to play sports. And he would say, ‘That’s not fair.’ And so, this foundation is hoping to assist families so they can enroll their kids in sports and arts other things. Looking at it from Sammy’s perspective, Sammy would want everyone to enjoy all the activities that he enjoyed. And through this foundation the family are hoping to be able to do that for some families.”

The Superhero celebration, meanwhile, is a chance to thank those in the community who are always on standby to help others. Admission is free for children as well as for any youth in a superhero costume.

“The idea of the Superhero Night is about recognizing the Superheroes in the community,” said Connors. “Angie and Steve, and others involved in the Climb Higher Foundation wanted to recognize the superheroes in our town who on that tragic day went above and beyond and showed how super and what great heroes they are. Angie still talks about the things that people did, including the entire community. But they’re going to (specifically) recognize some people like Sherri-Lynn Rideout and Heather Taylor, two nurses who were up there swimming with their kids and they were first on the scene, and they stayed there the entire time and tried to revive him as much as they could. And Megan Parsons and the nurses and doctors at the Janeway – everything that they did for the family on that day, they want to recognize. And groups like the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers who were on the scene, and the CBS Fire Department. They went above and beyond that day. Angie and Steve say that they don’t have any hesitation in knowing that everything was done that could have been done for Sammy on that day, that everybody did whatever they could to keep Sammy with us that day. So, this is just an opportunity to support them. Another group that people might not think of, but everything that Hickey’s Funeral Home did throughout the funeral went above and beyond. Angie and Steve, and the entire family wanted to recognize them as well. They want all these people to be seen as heroes and to recognize them for what they did. And the CBS Senior Blues too for putting off this afternoon and raising some funds to donate to the Sammy’s Climb Higher Foundation – they want to say thank you to them as well. It’s a lot of people. The outpouring of support during this ordeal was unbelievable and it continues to this day. So, it’s an opportunity for the family, through the Senior Blues, to say thank you to some super heroes.”

Along with the ceremony recognizing the Superheroes, the Blues are going to auction off a Super Hero jersey and donate the proceeds to the foundation, Tim Horton’s is donating the proceeds of its ‘Chuck-a-Puck’ contest, and proceeds from the 50/50 draw will also go to the cause.

“In addition to all that you also get to take in a good hockey game between two rivals in the league and a rivalry that goes back a long time,” Connors noted. “It will be a great hockey game. I know that all the players are psyched up for it.”

Two of Sammy’s relatives play with the Blues – his uncle Adam Gear and his cousin Bradley Connors, Paul’s son.

Connors is hoping the event will bring some comfort to Angie and Steve Porter, Sammy’s grandparents Alice and Leo Gear and all the family, and through the foundation “help other kids climb higher.”

“From what I’m hearing, the Blues are up for this game,” said Connors. “They want to recognize them (the superheroes) as well.”

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