Since their move from Long Island to Brooklyn, the New York Islanders have been off to a solid start during their inaugural season at their new home on the ice. They’ve also been a hit off it.
Four Islanders players — Anders Lee, Calvin deHaan, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin — made their way to Maimonides Medical Center with plenty of toys and goodies in tow on Thursday, December 10 as they visited pediatric patients to spread holiday cheer.
The players visited patients as young as infants to as old as mid-20s and were impressed with their good spirits and strength. “It’s very heartwarming. All of these kids are true warriors. To see them appreciate the little things and the smile on their faces, it’s a good feeling for sure,” 24-year-old defenseman deHaan said. “It’s inspiring for me. A lot of these kids are battling big problems.”
Along with giving out gifts to the children, the players also assisted in creating homemade holiday decorations.
Nineteen-year-old Toni Cerverizzo was grateful that the players came to spread cheer. “It means a lot, especially for the little ones,” she said. “They get to see that people actually do care and take the time out to make a difference. It’s great that they came by. It shows that they’re regular people just like us. I’m not too big of a hockey fan but I’ll definitely be watching them now after this.”
“These guys are very nice,” added patient Lucian Cimpoes. “Some of them spoke Russian like me so we talked about the sport and the love they have for it.”
Some parents were also in attendance to watch their children mingle with the athletes. “It’s great because my son is very big into sports right now,” said Mark G. whose son Vincent was decorating homemade ornaments. “Giving back to the kids in the hospital is really special. Sometimes people brush these events off.”
The day was more than just the toys, according to deHaan. “They love the gifts, but I think that even if the gifts weren’t involved, they’d still appreciate us coming by,” he said. “We’re very fortunate obviously to spend time with these great kids that go day by day and don’t take anything for granted.”
Lee thought the holidays made the experience better. “It makes it extra special. It’s one of my favorite days of the year because we can help someone have a better day and see these kids and how brave they are and what they go through every day, it’s pretty inspiring,” said the centerman. “These kids are so strong inside and out and it’s great to see.”