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Eichel, Kaleta, Sabres reflect on courage of 10-year-old Sebastian Bradley

Sebastian Bradley was a huge fan of the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres became a bigger fan of him.

"His love for the team and his love for the organization was awesome," center Jack Eichel said by phone Monday. "He knew all the players. He knew everyone's position, everyone's stats."

Bradley, who died of brain cancer at age 10 over the weekend, first met members of the Sabres organization two years ago. The team invited Bradley and his family to a game, and they made an immediate impact in the arena and the locker room.

"He just really stood out with a ton of energy, huge smile, huge Sabres fan, was a huge fan of Jack," said Rich Jureller, the Sabres' vice president of community relations. "He was a wonderful, wonderful kid, and the family was just as great.

"Fortunately and unfortunately, given the circumstances that these kids go through, you get to meet a lot of them and get to know them. His family, in particular, they are just really kind people."

Bradley showed his kindness during his stays in Buffalo hospitals. He spent down time building Lego sets, and he decided other children battling illnesses might like to share in the hobby. Sebastian's Lego Club was born, and more than 900 Lego sets have been distributed to Oishei Children's Hospital.

"As soon as I saw the story about Sebastian and the Legos, I invited him over to the house," said Lego enthusiast and former Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta. "He was shy, but once we went down in the Lego room, he was checking it all out and it kind of sparked him a little bit."

Kaleta gave Bradley a few Legos to build, and he also presented him with a prized piece of his collection – a "Star Wars" Millennium Falcon that Kaleta had completed. Kaleta also joined Bradley's sister, Maiah, for hospital visits and serves on the board of Sebastian's Lego Club.

"The stars aligned, and I got to meet a pretty special dude in Sebastian and try to help him," Kaleta said by phone. "Every kid has a dream and something they want to accomplish in life. Sometimes, in Sebastian's case, he was dealt an unfortunate hand. I'm in a position where I can carry on his dream. Something like that means more to me than ever playing a minute in the NHL."

As Bradley's condition worsened late last year, Eichel and teammate Sam Reinhart visited the family's home at Christmastime with bags of presents.

"We knew the condition that he was in and what he was going through," Eichel said from Massachusetts. "The thing that stood out to me most about him would have been just his energy. For somebody who was going through something that he was going through, he was so happy. He was happy about everything. He was so thankful.

"It just seemed like he wasn't going through what he was going through. Honestly, it was inspiring to see."

Inside the Sabres: Foundation, players bring holiday smiles

The Sabres continued to help in other ways. Teresa Belbas, the coordinator of community relations, participated in fundraisers for the Lego club. Team members shared Sebastian's story.

Through it all, he continued to think of others.

"It's just always amazing to watch how they persevere when they go through something like that," Jureller, of the Sabres, said. "Heaven forbid you'd ever have to go through anything like that, and you just don't know how they do it."

The Bradleys will welcome friends, family and fans of Sebastian from 1-3 and 5-7 p.m. Saturday at Amigone Funeral Home at 5200 Sheridan Drive in in Amherst. A funeral service will immediately follow at 7 p.m.

Sebastian's favorite color was orange, so the family has asked that anyone attending the celebration of life wear orange instead of black. In lieu of flowers, Lego sets may be donated in his memory to Sebastian's Lego Club at www.ochbuffalo.org/foundation/sebastians-lego-club or the Children's Hospital of Buffalo Foundation, 1028 Main St., 4th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14202.

"He was a lot of fun to be around," Eichel said. "It was nice to spend some time with him and get to know him a little bit. It was one of the better things I did during the holidays."

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