A Heart Like Mine
In Memory of Dan Petschenig 1963-2013
Dan Petschenig was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His father was born in Austria and his mother was born in Switzerland. They moved to Canada in the late 1950’s. Dan was born in 1963. He had one older brother, Jim Petschenig, a former Ontario Hockey League Official, who battled Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years. Jim passed away at age 51 in 2010. Dan attended St. Leonards Elementary School in Manotick, Ontario and went on to attend St. Pius High School in Ottawa. In high school, this is where he met the love of his life, Laura Petschenig. In his grade 11 school year, Dan was playing for the Metcalfe Jets Jr. B Hockey Club as the teams goaltender. His coach recommended that he should retire from hockey and start playing football due to his lacklustre goaltending ability and big stature. He took that to heart, and began playing football for St. Pius in the 11th grade. Dan would go on to attend Carelton University and play football for the Carelton Ravens. After his second season with the Ravens, Dan entered the CFL draft early. He was selected by the Toronto Argonauts in the 5th round of the 1985 CFL Draft. He would go on to play 3 full seasons with the Argos, wearing number 65 and playing on the offensive line as well as on the special teams as the teams long snapper. Dan retired from the CFL prior to the 1989 season due to injuries. On April 29th 1989, Dan married his high school sweetheart, Laura Duffy. Dan and Laura started their family in 1993, with their first child, Joe. Then in 1995, Will came along, and shortly after in 1996, Margaret was born. In 1999, they had their 4th child, Grace. Dan and Laura showed their children how to be the best version of themselves through unconditional love and demonstrating compassion towards others. Dan was a huge believer that sports helped to develop children into well-rounded individuals. Dan recognized the profound impact sports had on his life and made it a point volunteer his time to give back to his local community as a mentor and coach. Dan not only wanted to help develop kids into better athletes but most importantly into better people.The Petschenig family was always at the arena. All 4 children played both hockey and lacrosse, so the family spent their quality time together running between games. During the long hours they spent travelling in the car, it became a family tradition to hear Dan’s famous stories from his football days. Both parents were incredibly proud of their children and were always their biggest supporters. Suddenly, on October 29th 2013, Dan passed away from a pulmonary embolism. The Petschenig family was devastated by the sudden loss of their father, husband and son. Dan was the heart and soul of the Petschenig family. His legacy will live on forever through A Heart Like Mine.
“Dan was a good man and good friend that could always be counted on at anytime. This trait above all others, probably is why he had such a tight knit group of friends and family. Dan had a singular drive to achieve and excel, whether in sport or business and most importantly family. But on occasion, Dan also had that mischievous twinkle in his eye- you just knew he was concocting some ingenious plan or prank, that some unsuspecting person was on the receiving end”
– John Hurley, RCMP
“As a competitive athlete at a young age Dan was one of my very first coaches. Dan was and still is one of the most influential coaches I’ve ever had. He preached to us at a very young age to play hard, protect yourself, protect your teammates and play the game with integrity. I often found myself in the penalty box at a young age, I loved being physical and that got me in trouble and frustrated me. I still remember to this day, Dan pulled me aside one time when I was in tears after being ejected from another game for a hit. He told me “I don’t care how many penalties you take, if you play within the rules, or you’re protecting your teammates I can live with the consequences. Never let anyone take away your physicality and change your game”. That’s something that stuck with me then and still does now. It’s moments like those that leave a lasting impact on athletes, and with Dan there was many.”
-JP Kealey, Buffalo Bandits
Will Petschenig’s Story
In late October 2013, at the young age of 18 years old Will Petschenig’s father Dan, passed away suddenly. Will is one of 4 children in the Petschenig Family from Ottawa, Ontario. He was playing for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League at the time of Dan’s unexpected passing. Will was fortunate enough to have the support of his teammates, his billet family and many other people throughout the Durham Region. Hockey and Lacrosse were his escapes from dealing with the grief. His two younger sisters, Margaret and Grace, his older brother Joe, his mother Laura, and Will, all had a very difficult time dealing with the loss of their father and husband.
As a professional athlete, Will knows that he is a role model to so many children, teenagers and their families. In 2015, Will Petschenig created his foundation called A Heart Like Mine. A Heart Like Mine is a program for Grieving Children and Families to attend one of Will’s hockey games and get the VIP experience. Petschenig founded the program in Saginaw Michigan, and has held the program in Switzerland, Ontario and across the United States. Over 125 families have gone through the program. One of the biggest things for Will was to make sure that he could help these children and families enjoy quality family time together during the difficult time of grieving their lost loved one. He knows how important spending quality time is, and how stressful and trying times are for these families. Will has volunteered 100’s of hours by attending Children’s Grief Centers across the United States. He has volunteered at the Children’s Grief Center of Great Lakes Bay Region in the Saginaw, Michigan area and at Erin’s House in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has also toured Valerie’s House in South West Florida to see the differences and what each grief center has to offer. Will is currently a certified children’s grief specialist. This has all been volunteer work. Will Petschenig says the greatest gift he has been given in life is the ability to help others out when they are in need of it the most. Will has gone through a death just like all these children and families. He prides himself on being a role model to these children and shows them that anyone can have the ability to change someone’s world in a positive manner.
Will Petschenig’s Vision
My vision is to open up Canada’s premier facility for Grieving Children and Families in the Durham Region. Through all my experience working with the Children’s Grief Center of Great Lakes Bay Region, Erin’s House and Valeries House, I am confident that A Heart Like Mine House will help children and their families through their grieving process of a lost loved one. Children and families grieve way more than people think. Canada has a population of 7.5 Million children 18 years of age or younger. Every year, 203,000 children will experience the death of someone in their family. That is 1 in 50 children who will experience a death in the family. Did you know that 1 in 14 kids in Canada will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18? That is roughly 40,000 children in Canada. In Ontario alone, we have 2.8 Million children under the age of 18. Around 77,000 of these kids will experience some sort of death in their family.
The population in the Durham Region was estimated just short of 700,000 in 2019. The population of children 18 years of age and younger in the Durham Region was estimated around 150,000. Stats prove that here in the Durham Region, around 3,000 children will experience the death of a family member. Stats also prove that around 1000 children in the Durham Region will experience the loss of a parent or sibling. Durham Regions population continues to grow, and those numbers will unfortunately continue to rise.
Counselling is not for everyone. For some people it works and for many it is difficult to share their emotions and feelings with a stranger. A Children’s Grief Center is designed to support children and families through their grieving process in a safe environment. Everyone who attends A Heart Like Mine House will all have something in common. A lost loved one.
One’s mental health can take a toll quickly during the grieving process. So many different emotions and feelings can happen during the grieving process and it can definitely take a toll on a child or parents mental health. That’s why a Children’s Grief Center is so important for our children and families. It’s where dialogue happens, where children and their families can seek the help and attention that they need for grieving the loss of their loved one.
Children’s Grief Centers are designed to be free of charge. It’s through local community support, government grants, government support, charity events and amazing community donors who help successfully run a Children’s Grief Center. There should never be a charge for needing assistance with your grieving process. You never know what a family is going through financially and that’s why it’s a free resource for families in need.
The Durham Region and Oshawa has been home to Will Petschenig since he joined the Oshawa Generals in 2012. This area has opened its arms to him as an athlete, community leader and person. The Durham Region has supported him through the loss of his father. It’s time for him to give back to the amazing people of the Durham Region and help our children and their families through their grieving process.