The Beirut crisis hits close to home for Avalanche’s Lebanese forward Nazem Kadri

Nov 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of the most successful playoff season of his 10-year career, Avalanche center Nazem Kadri’s priorities during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs were not entirely on hockey.

Kadri, 29, has become a leader to his coaches and teammates in his first year with the Avalanche. That leadership reflects in his passion for off-ice causes, such as the Lebanon crisis that struck in the early morning hours of Aug. 4.

Kadri, who is of Lebanese descent, watched with the rest of the world as explosions struck Lebanon’s capital of Beirut that morning. The immense damage was caused by a large amount of improperly stored ammonium nitrate at the city’s port. More than 200 people died and another 6,500 were injured. The damages reached more than $15 billion and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless searching for support from the world.

The effects of the Beirut explosions hit close to home for Kadri. His father, Samir, immigrated to Canada in the 1960s with his parents, Nazem’s grandparents, from Lebanon. But a majority of his extended family still live back home. And Kadri felt obligated to help.

So with the help of the Islamic Relief Foundation and Humanitarian Coalition, he joined the cause.

“I have family back home, extended family that is pretty close to me so obviously that affected me,” Kadri said. “You hate to see so many people injured, homeless and scrambling for medical supplies. So for me, being in the position I am, I’m trying to raise awareness and money and help these people as much as possible. They’re in need right now and I’d do anything to help.”

Avs head coach Jared Bednar took notice of Kadri’s leadership. Aside from coaching a player that scored a career-high nine goals and 18 points during Colorado’s 15-game playoffs, Bednar also noticed Kadri’s off-ice leadership.

“I think he’s what we all strive to be,” Bednar said of Kadri. “It’s not just better hockey players or better coaches but better people. He is a leader in our room and off the ice as well. And he’s passionate. When he gets involved in something, whether it’s our team or our game or something off the ice where he feels he could make an impact and help, he’s getting out of his comfort zone to do that. And I think that’s great.”

The Canadian-born son of immigrants, who proudly identifies as ‘Lebanese-Canadian,’ started working to help raise money for Lebanon’s struggling people. Kadri has partnered with both Islamic Relief and the Humanitarian Coalition in the past. He knew that Islamic Relief had an office in Lebanon and had multiple programs and he was proactive to reach out and help in any way he can.

“Nazem has been a close friend of Islamic relief for a while now,” said Reyhana Patel, the head of external relations for Islamic Relief. “We’ve done events with him and have done partnerships with his ‘Nazem Kadri Foundation’ for a number of different causes so we know him really well. When the explosions happened, he reached out and we let him know what we were doing and he was happy to partake.”

His passion for humanitarian causes comes from his parents. Both his father and his mother have been involved with similar causes in the past — even if unrelated to their birth country.

“He and his family always support our causes and attend some of our events,” Patel told me. “They’re passionate about humanitarian causes as well. They’re hugely involved and even more so in the Beirut crisis, which is something Nazem was very keen on doing. He’s known Islamic Relief Canada for a while now and it’s something that he is really passionate about.”

Kadri has never been one to shy away from his proud Lebanese heritage and roots. During his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri would regularly bring Mediterranean food from Paramount — a Lebanese-owned chain restaurant in Ontario — to practice for his teammates to try.

In the summer of 2018, Kadri married his girlfriend, Ashley, and held a traditional Lebanese wedding in Toronto. A number of his teammates attended the party and took part in the traditional Lebanese folk dancing called the dabke.

The Humanitarian Coalition is made up of Canada’s top-leading nonprofits. Aside from Islamic Relief, they also work with Oxfam, Plan International and Care Canada. The coalition has proactively been involved in an ample amount of worldwide crises including the hunger crisis in Yemen and Africa in 2017, The Syrian refugee crisis and Nepal earthquake in 2015, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Kadri’s involvement in Lebanon’s crisis included social media posts to direct his followers towards a fundraiser for the people of Beirut. The Humanitarian Coalition and its alliance of 12 leading Canadian charities, ran a fundraising appeal with the support of the Canadian government, that pledged to match every dollar of donations by individual Canadians up to $8 million.

That goal was reached on Aug. 24 thanks in part to Kadri’s large following and his outreach to help raise the allotted amount. The Humanitarian Coalition raised $10.2 million, which brought the total money raised to $18.2 million with the included match from the Canadian government.

“It’s really important and it helps the campaign so much,” Patel said of Kadri, who she admitted is one of the biggest names — along with political commentator and comedian Trevor Noah — she’s ever worked on fundraising initiatives with. “His following is huge. Him being Lebanese and Lebanese-Canadian, people were watching his feed and looking to see what he was going to post. So it promotes the campaign and promotes awareness of the cause through his tweeting.”

Patel added: “I would say, anyone that has a huge following and tweets about charitable causes, people that are following see that and it creates more awareness around that. It’s a huge win for us, it’s really important and we cannot thank Nazem enough for helping the cause.”

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