AVONDALE, AZ — Leighton Accardo's legacy lives on through running, rollerblading, and hockey.
Today, Arizona Coyotes hosted the second annual ’Skatin’ for Leighton’ event to honor the late athlete. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Phoenix Raceway was occupied by tennis shoes and rollerblades as hundreds gathered to remember Leighton.
“It's almost like a wedding,” Carly Accardo, Leighton's mother, said. ”All of a sudden, the day is over and you're like 'I don't really remember any of it.' So [I'm] just trying to take it all in.”
Arizona Coyotes Hockey Ambassador and Olympic Ice Hockey Player, Lyndsey Fry, was one of many to lace up in honor of 9-year-old Leighton.
“If Leighton was able to fight through what she fought through, like, I can get through this,” Fry said. “My hip flexors are going to be just fine. I can power through. I've been thinking a lot about that when I’m out on the track.”
Leighton underwent countless surgeries and nearly two dozen rounds of chemotherapy.
She died in 2020 following her courageous battle with cancer.
“We get so stressed out as adults’,” says Fry. “Life gets crazy and I think it's really easy to get negative. And then you think about Leighton and the way she carried herself through all of that and it's just so inspiring. I think just helps me remember and it's taught me that life is pretty awesome. And we need to appreciate every moment of it.”
Money raised at the Skatin’ for Leighton event goes to the Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund, which allows girls with financial barriers to pursue hockey.
Fry told ABC15 about 20% of the hockey players on the Kachinas, the official Tier 1 girls hockey association of the Arizona Coyotes, benefit from the Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund.
"We want to continue to be able to offer that for people," Fry said.
Leighton’s mother, Carly, remains grateful that her legacy lives on.
“Leighton taught us so much and made the most of every moment she had here,” Accardo said. “So those things I'll always cherish. I'll always be thankful to her for those.”
The Coyotes hope to raise $149,000 in honor of Leighton, who wore jersey number 49.