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12-year-old hockey player donating for every hat trick

By Website, 09/21/18, 12:00PM EDT

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A peewee hockey player hopes every hat trick he scores on the ice will help wounded veterans.

Declan Sullivan, 12, of the Manchester Flames hockey team, has pledged to donate to Operation Hat Trick every time he scores a hat trick, the term for three goals scored in a single game by the same player.

“They give the ultimate sacrifice, and I feel that I should give back to them,” Declan said.

Declan was moved by the story of Navy SEALs Nate Hardy and Mike Koch, who were killed in action in Iraq in 2008.

Operation Hat Trick  was founded in New Hampshire to honor them by supporting the recovery of service members and veterans through the sale of gear, including hats.

Schools, businesses and even the Celtics and Bruins have caught on and sported Operation Hat Trick apparel.

“We are nearing the million-dollar mark in donations, which makes our heads spin,” said founder Dot Sheehan. “We never ever thought we'd get to that.”

Declan's story also caught the attention of Hardy's father.

“We're really proud of Declan, and I know that my son, Nate, and his buddy, Mike Koch, they would also be mighty proud of him,” Steve Hardy said.

Nate Hardy and Koch died together, and they are buried side-by-side at Arlington National Cemetery. Declan and his brother paid their respects in person at their gravesites.

“It was just very emotional seeing so many fallen heroes, that I’m just imagining all their families and what they have to go through,” Declan said of the experience.

Declan’s hockey team made a big donation to his cause.

Declan said he will play hockey as long as he can and score as many hat tricks as he can, but he also dreams of following in the footsteps of his heroes.

“I want to be a Marine and then a police officer,” he said. “I want to serve because I just want to give back to the community, and I want to give people freedom. I want to give freedom that they deserve.”