RALEIGH, N.C. — Emma is a12-year-old Carolina Hurricanes fan. She had down syndrome.
“She has an energy and joy that just radiates from her that captures people’s attention," said Tina Izzo, who is Emma's mom. "She’s really a true joy and a blessing. She’s added a lot to our lives.”
Emma's Parents have been coming to Canes games for 24 years, since the inaugural season here in Greensboro.
“We became instant fans," said Tina.
Naturally, Emma became a fan too, eventually capturing Jordan Martinook's heart.
“My moms has worked with adults with development disabilities my entire life," said Jordan Martinook, a Canes forward. "It's just part of who I am. I've always been drawn to people with down syndrome because they’re so awesome. I saw Emma and she had her skates on. She was right on the edge. I had to go see her just because how could you not, her face just lights up."
“I love him," said Emma.
“She’d come to the glass in warm ups and I would always wave at her," said Martinook.
She started calling him her buddy," said Tina.
Canes fans noticed their interactions.
"It was an awareness," said Crystal Speeks-Strohecker, who started the initiative, Canes For Emma. “There was a video someone posted on twitter about Jordan giving her a stick and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, that was the sweetest thing I ever saw in my life'."
Crystal Speeks-Strohecker, a stranger, but fellow Caniac, got on Facebook and started a conversation about Emma.
“Somebody had made the comment the Canes should give her season tickets," said Speeks-Strohecker. "I said, 'Why should they? We’re family. Family does for each other'."
The Caniacs gravitated towards Emma, just like Martinook did. They're donating money to give Emma and her family season tickets.
“It became 11 games with 2 seats, then 22 games with 4 seats, and now we’re looking at the whole season," said Speeks-Strohecker. “It reminds you of what humanity can do.”
The Izzo's are grateful to see the outpouring of love.
“It was a hard thing for me to accept because I love giving to people not taking, but they insisted," said Tina. "We’ve been overwhelmed. A simple thank you doesn’t cover it.”
Speeks-Strohecker said the initiative continues to grow and they're planing to create a non-profit. They have raised over $11,000 in two weeks.
If Emma and her family can't attend a game, they plan to give theirs seats to other special needs families.