Three players from the NHL’s New York Islanders team – Casey Cizikas, Jason Chimera and Thomas Greiss – visited with some young patients at the Pediatric Center at Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park yesterday.
The players handed out early Christmas gifts and helped the children decorate Christmas ornaments.
“We’re just trying to spend some happiness and Christmas cheer to kids who are less fortunate and right now it’s definitely tough, but I think we all really enjoy doing it,” said Cizikas, who plays center.
The children ranged from infants all the way to teenagers. Some of the patients were too sick to come out of their rooms, but that didn’t stop the players from going in and still spending time with them. The players went so far as putting on protective masks and scrubbing in before entering the sickest of patient rooms.
The players were also able to bring some distraction and happiness to some of the parents at the hospital who were by their children’s besides.
Left winger Chimera, who is also a father, was grateful to be able to support such a great pediatric hospital and was reminded of his young son at home, “This really kinds of tears at your heart strings a little more than if you don’t have kids. You realize how lucky you are to have healthy kids. You don’t really know what the parents are going through, what the kids are going through, because you aren’t in that situation at all. You have healthy kids at home and I’m pretty thankful for that and spending Christmas at home is pretty special and seeing these families spend it at the hospital is pretty tough to see.”
Grateful parents like Jessica Moreno, whose son 11-year-old David suffers from severe epilepsy that sometimes causes him memory loss, was over-joyed to have the players spend time with her child. They were just on their way out when they saw the players coming into the unit.
“In my experience I think visits like these help the patients a lot. For example, David didn’t have interest in sports before, but since the players came two years ago, he became more interested in sports and curious about the players and started looking them up. It gives the kids something to do and a great story to tell their classmates later. It’s very admirable for them [NY Islanders] to come spend time with the kids and it helps the kids a lot to see that not only do their family and friends care for them but other people do too,” said Moreno as she looked on from the side as her son socialized with the players.
The visit was filled with laughs and fun as the players played games with the children and even had a ornament decorating contest, before signing autographs and posing for pictures with all the children.
One patient who was more than excited to meet the professional hockey players was, 12-year-old Christopher Ronald who has lung hodgkin’s lymphoma, “I’m happy that the players came and got to spend time with me. Having them here makes me feel very happy. I watch them on tv and it’s nice to have them here.”
The Islanders still have four more games to play before the end of the year starting on December 23rd when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at home. The team is currently 20-12-0 (W-L-T) for the season but are looking to take the momentum from their big win on Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins into their next string of matchups.