As buses pulled up to select Long Island elementary schools Monday morning, some lucky students were greeted by special guests, as the New York Islanders were on hand for Islanders School Day.
The Islanders paired off for the annual community initiative, and spoke at a variety of local elementary schools. Assembly topics ranged from the importance of education, staying active, eating healthy and making smart decisions in life.
“Today was great, the kids were awesome,” said Josh Bailey, who was at Old Bethpage Elementary School. “The students were really excited to see us, they were a great crowd.”
Bailey, who was paired with Andrew MacDonald, focused on the importance of sportsmanship and teamwork. After introducing themselves and talking about their journeys to the NHL, the players shared personal experiences on bullying, setting goals, and making healthy habits.
“Bullying is not easy to talk about but it is a big part of schools these days,” said MacDonald. “It was nice to hear the children talk about bullying to know they are aware of it. They know to talk to a grown-up about it. It is good to hear that kids are really listening.”
After the presentation, Students were given the opportunity to ask the players questions. At Old Bethpage Elementary, not all questions were easy.
“The toughest question today was about fighting,” said Bailey. “We are trying to teach the kids good values. It is tough to spin it positively and it was probably the toughest question today.”
MacDonald mentioned another problematic part of the Q&A which he handled with poise.
“We had a couple statements from Ranger fans,” he said. “I was hoping we could maybe convert a couple of them, but they are probably listening to their parents.”
Howard Merims, Principal of Howard D. Fayette Elementary School, could already see the effect that the Islanders had on his school.
“What a thrill, just to give back to the community,” said Merims. “We have children who just crave this. You can just see by their reactions this morning how much it meant to them, to have professional athletes in our school. We are so appreciative of the Islanders and the commitment to us here.”
Bailey, said he never had this type of opportunity growing up and knew what it would have meant to him as a kid. He was eager to provide that unforgettable experience for the Long Island kids.
“If an NHL player visited my school when I was young, it would have been the coolest,” Bailey said. “It would have been a day I would never forget.”
Schools that the Islanders visited included:
•Kramer Lane Elementary- Radek Martinek, Matt Donovan, and Frans Nielsen
•Setauket Elementary- Matt Carkner, Eric Boulton, and Aaron Ness
•Polk Street School- Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Okposo
•Waverly Avenue Elementary- Kevin Poulin, Brock Nelson, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
•Seaford Harbor Elementary- Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Thomas Vanek
•Old Bethpage Elementary- Andrew MacDonald and Josh Bailey
•Harold D. Fayette Elementary- John Tavares, Colin McDonald, and Travis Hamonic
•Abbey Lane Elementary- Peter Regin and Brian Strait
• Island Trees Middle School – Michael Grabner and Thomas Hickey