The New York Islanders asked local residents to step up and support their neighbors affected by Hurricane Sandy, and Long Islanders delivered in a big way Monday at Nassau Coliseum.
More than 2000 people stopped by the Islanders’ home ice to donate clothing, non-perishable food items and money to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims in the Long Island area. The American Red Cross and Island Harvest were stationed in the Coliseum lobby, accepting contributions from anyone generous enough to help. To thank those who came out to support the effort, the Islanders hosted free public skating sessions with team coaches and staff from 2-8 p.m., along with free skate rentals for participants and a variety of games set up around the edges of the rink.
In addition to caring neighbors who came out to support the charitable cause, families affected by the hurricane came to the Coliseum in search of a much-needed break from their personal recovery efforts. Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano, who spent several hour-long sessions interacting with attendees on the ice, said the atmosphere around the rink was positive, a good sign given the unfortunate circumstances many people have faced since the storm.
“It’s great any time that our organization can do something like this,” Capuano said. “It’s a relief for the people affected. A lot of them have been through so much, and for them to get away from the recovery efforts that they’ve made, to get out here and socialize and skate around, it’s a good feeling. You can see it in their eyes.”
Islanders Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager Doug Weight was also on the ice with fans. The year-round Long Islander was impressed with the way the local community has banded together to help those in need.
“Days like today show that people in all corners of the United States are strong people, and they come together in times like this,” Weight said. “This is a major part of a lot of people’s lives that we see every day. We’re among friends and family here, and it’s been a great turnout.”
Weight added that the clothing and food items should go a long way toward making those most affected by the hurricane feel at home again, especially as the weather gets colder on Long Island.
“Something small like this can bring a lot of smiles, and hopefully a lot of warmth and food and other important things to these people while they go through this hard time,” Weight said. “It’s all relative – we lost a lot of trees and we lost our power for nine or 10 days, but so many people got it so much worse.”
Many of the donated items will go to Island Harvest, Long Island’s largest hunger relief organization, to aid the people who need food and clothing the most. The volunteers from Island Harvest found themselves overwhelmed once the Coliseum doors opened at 2 p.m. and people filed in to donate. One of those volunteers, Ira Adler, was overwhelmed by the support of the Long Island community.
“This is unbelievable,” Adler said. “The folks who came today and participated gave so much food and clothing. It’s going to go a long way for Hurricane relief and for everyday use.”
Adler also said that because of the approaching holiday season, this would normally be a busy time for local charities anyway. Due to the widespread devastation caused by the storm, Monday’s donations are especially valuable.
“Normally we’d be doing food drives with the supermarkets, but now we’re focusing more on hurricane relief,” Adler said. “A lot of the items that would have gone to the holiday donations are now going to hurricane relief because the demand is so much greater.”
As Long Island and much of the tri-state area continues to rebuild, Weight described the uplifting mood of the event and what he thought it meant in terms of the next step for Long Islanders.
“There’s a lot of areas that were decimated,” Weight said. “It’s sad, but we’ll get through it and come together. They say adversity makes you stronger. We’ve had some adverse conditions here. Hopefully everybody gets their lives back to normal.”
People who would like to make a donation to the Hurricane Sandy Relief fund are encouraged to visit the Island Harvest web site or the Red Cross web site. For a list of upcoming Island Harvest fund raising and food raising events, CLICK HERE.