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by Nicole Kingston / New York Islanders
Members of the Islanders went back to school on Monday, but this time not as students.

As part of the team’s commitment to the community, all of the players on the Islanders’ roster, participated in the fifth annual Islanders Literacy Day, traveling to elementary schools across Long Island to share in the joy of reading with students.

Two to three players visited various schools, and were greeted by gymnasiums and auditoriums full of eager and enthusiastic students. Players took the time to speak about themselves, read a story to the students, answer questions, and sign autographs. Most of the players read stories from the popular “Brady Brady” series.

“Being a professional athlete is a great privilege and a lot of fun, but there are a lot of responsibilities that come with it,” John Tavares said from the Guggenheim Elementary School in Port Washington. “Some of the events we do are really great, like today.  Giving back to the community and to the kids that really look up to us and see us as role models is something so special.”

Sean Bergenheim, who has participated in the reading programs for the past four years agreed.

 “I remember when I was a kid, and if anything like this happened at my school I would have been so pumped to meet the players.  To have them talk to me about school, I would have listened.  So hopefully we can say a few things to the kids that they'll learn and take home with them.”

For some players with children of their own, such as Doug Weight, the day was extra special.

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“I’ve got three kids at home…I remember being in their seats and having similar visits from athletes, it’s something great. We want to make sure they remember this day and they have fun. It’s a fun day for us.  We’re in an age of computers and games and things of that nature. You don’t want to miss the power of the almighty book, it’s something special.”

While the students, many of whom were dressed in Islander jerseys and hats, were excited to have the players at their schools, it was the teachers and administrators who were most appreciative of the impact the event had on their students.

“Literacy is the fundamental of why we’re here,” Howard Merims, principal of the Harold D. Fayette School said, whose school was visited by Kyle Okposo and Jeff Tambellini. “For members of the Islanders to come here speaks volumes.  For them to provide the message that reading is important is just terrific.”

Principal John Mullins from Captree Elementary in West Islip wore a special hockey player tie for the occasion and addressed the students as they sat down on the gym floor.

"Sit up straight, pay attention, cheer! Because we are ALL fans of the New York Islanders."

Literacy Day is part of the Islanders at School Program. The Islanders at School initiatives bring assemblies and workshops to various schools throughout New York. In addition to Literacy Day, the “We’re All Islanders” School Assembly Program focuses on the importance of teamwork, both on and off the ice. Arena Hostess Dina and Sparky stress the importance of teamwork to students through the use of video and interactive demonstrations. For more information about the program and to have your school considered in the future, CLICK HERE.

The following are the schools and players that participated in Literacy Day:

Andy Sutton & Trent Hunter: Wilson Elementary School, Rockville Centre
Freddy Meyer & Frans Nielsen: Marion Street School, Lynbrook
Doug Weight & John Tavares: Guggenheim Elementary School, Port Washington
Mark Streit & Brendan Witt: Stratford Avenue School, Garden City
Sean Bergenheim, Richard Park & Rob Schremp: Paul E. Kirdahy Captree Elementary School, West Islip
Tim Jackman & Josh Bailey: Gardiners Avenue School, Levittown
Bruno Gervais & Blake Comeau: Summit Lane School, Levittown
Rick DiPietro & Nate Thompson: Westbury Friends School, Westbury
Radek Martinek, Matt Moulson: John H. West Elementary School, Bethpage
Jon Sim & Dwayne Roloson: Woods Road Elementary School, North Babylon
Jack Hillen & Martin Biron: Hewlett Elementary School, Hewlett
Jeff Tambellini & Kyle Okposo: Harold D. Fayette School, North Merrick
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