Danny Abdallah, a lifelong Bulldog supporter whose three children and niece were hit by a drunk driver, has told Canterbury players about the power of forgiveness on and off the pitch ahead of Monday’s inaugural I4Give Cup game with Parramatta in the Accor Stadium.
Abdallah, who co-founded the I4Give Foundation with his wife Leila after the 2020 tragedy in Oatlands, spoke to the Bulldogs players on Friday and explained how he met the man responsible for the deaths of Antony, 13, Angelina, 12 and eight. , could have forgiven. year old Siena.
The siblings and their cousin Veronique were walking to buy ice cream when a ute, whose driver had been sentenced to 28 years in prison, climbed the curb and beat them, but Abdallah said it was important to forgive him for his other four. children.
“On the night of the tragedy when Antony, Angelina and Sienna died tragically, we had to make a choice about how to keep the rest of our children together in the best possible way,” Abdallah said.
“The only way to do that was through forgiveness and forgiving the driver. That attitude has helped us move forward.
“My heart will always be heavy until the day I take my last breath, but it has enabled me to help my children become socially healthier and dream again. They have goals and love their sport.
“It has helped my wife and I to look ahead and say that life is still ahead of us. We are still young, we have young children and we need to set a good example for them.
“Even as athletes on the field, you have to learn to forgive yourself if you make a mistake and the person next to you who makes a mistake, so that you can fully focus on the game and not what happened.
“I never understood it before, but now I know it’s good to let go and about the importance of forgiveness.”
The Bulldogs and Eels are up for the I4Give Cup after Abdallah approached Canterbury CEO Aaron Warburton and his Parramatta counterpart Jim Sarantinos at the urging of actor and comedian Rob Shehadie, who is also a former Lebanon international.
“I have always been a crazy Doggies supporter and live in Parramatta, my favorite game of the year is the Bulldogs and the Eels, so Rob came up with the idea of the I4Give Cup,” said Abdallah.
“He said you should raise awareness and talk to the Doggies and Parramatta to see if they wanted to play a game together in honor of the children in the Oatlands tragedy that was about to happen.
“It’s an opportunity to raise awareness and have a conversation about forgiveness.
“We now live in a world where we are quick to accuse and shame people and the whole forgiveness piece has been thrown out the window, especially through social media and especially with children’s expectations.
“They don’t forgive themselves and the whole perception of how their lives should be if they don’t live up to the fact that they have a ruthless heart. It is important to discuss and raise awareness about mental health and forgiveness, and its importance.”
Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson said hearing Abdallah helped put what’s happening on the pitch and in-game into perspective.
“It is a great honor for us to play for the inaugural I4Give Cup,” said Jackson. “I’ve had the chance to speak to Danny and it’s an incredible story. It’s very tragic of course, but it’s also just very inspiring for us as players.
“It’s incredible how he’s approached the tragedy and it makes you realize that things in our lives aren’t as hard as what you think they are.”
Eels captain Clint Gutherson said players from both sides will strive to honor Abdallah and his family by doing their best on Monday.
“For the family to be able to forgive and move on, and to pass this message on is incredible,” Gutherson said.
“Having something like the I4Give Cup just shows how much the game can help and I’m honored to lead the guys on Monday in front of what should be a good crowd.”
Warburton, who has known Abdallah and his family for more than a decade, said the Bulldogs were honored to help promote the I4Give Foundation and the message of forgiveness.
“Everyone resonates with tragedy in their own way, but to have a connection between tragedy and forgiveness is powerful and it’s a little out of the norm,” Warburton said.
“The strength Danny and his family have shown is just super human. He’s just a special man, with a special family, and he’s one of us, so to have the family there watching the I4Give Cup after the game and presents is an honor and only the beginning.”
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