Skatin' for Leighton: Arizona hockey community honors young girl who died of cancer

The NASCAR track in Phoenix wasn't jam-packed with race cars, but with rollerblades and running shoes on Jan. 30.

This is one lap of many - by many - just for one person: Leighton Accardo.

At just 9 years old, Leighton died of cancer, but the impact of her life has no bounds.

That’s especially true with the Arizona Coyotes and the women’s hockey community.

"We’re going to do everything we can to make sure her legacy lives on and keep her memory alive forever," said Lyndsey Fry, an Arizona native and Olympic ice hockey medalist participating in Skatin' for Leighton.

On Sunday morning, the Phoenix Raceway opened up its track so hundreds could skate in her honor.

Leighton's family did the first lap alone together. Her father, Jeremy, said the lap meant everything.

"It’s indescribable, but just for the community in general and girls hockey, and what our daughter would have wanted," the father said. "It’s just a surreal moment and fun to do it as a family."

Last year, Lyndsey Fry skated 94 miles by herself to raise money for the Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund, but now in its second annual event, hundreds came out to skate with her.

"She was just such a vibrant kid," Fry said. "When you’re around somebody, like that it impacts you, changes you. I think especially as adults we go throughout struggles and get stressed out and to see someone like Leighton stay positive through her cancer journey was just so inspiring."

The Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund will help families alleviate the financial barrier for girls to play hockey, which can be an expensive sport.

"They really took our fear of Leighton being forgotten, they took that to heart and made sure it will never happen, and that her legacy in Arizona and in the Arizona hockey community will live on forever," said Leighton's mother, Carly.

On a NASCAR track in January, everyone who participated sent a message in that 9-year-old's name: Every girl who wants to play hockey in Arizona can do it.

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