Casey Cizikas was standing at Brandon Stobierski's bedside on Monday, looking through the four-year-old's collection of Pokemon cards.
The book is chalk full of cards and Cizikas recognizes many of the characters because Pokemon was popular when he was a kid and fads can be cyclical. Cizikas tells Stobierski that Charizard was his favorite when he was a kid.
Cizikas and Scott Mayfield had originally given Stobierski, who is outfitted in an Islanders hat, a table hockey set, but they have another idea. A quick trip out to their bin full of toys, which they've been carting around from room to room at Cohen Children's Medical Center, and they come back with a Detective Pikachu Lego set, which make the little guy to light up.
"It was a no-brainer when we went back and grabbed the one Pikachu toy in the crate," Cizikas said. "It's little things like that, to see him get excited and happy means a lot."
That heartwarming scene was one of many on Monday, as the Isles dispersed to hospitals across Long Island and Brooklyn to hand deliver toys to kids, who unfortunately have to spend the holidays in the last place they, or anyone, would want to be.
"To me it's the best event of the year," Matt Martin said. "I think all the guys really enjoy it, putting a smile on kid's faces who are going through a tough time. Just anything around the holidays to bring some joy is a special thing."
It's become an annual holiday tradition for the Islanders, who insist they aren't doing much by dropping by and spreading some cheer. Try telling that to the parents of the kids, who are relieved to see their kids smiling, putting their problems aside for a few minutes. Brandon's mom, Susan, said that the Islanders visiting was a rallying point for her family during her son's hospital stay.
"It's definitely inspirational," Susan Stobierski said. "For him to grow up knowing that special people came to see him when he was in a special place makes it more meaningful."
The Islanders take giving back seriously and remnants of their community work can be found throughout Cohen's. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Yorke had a Tom Kuhnhackl autograph on his wall from Kuhnhackl's visit a month ago. Another young patient had come to a game as a guest of Josh Bailey's, Bailey's Buddies program. Both kids got new autographs, pictures and toys and were ecstatic to have the Isles come see them.
As the Islanders left the hospital on Monday, they left behind brand-new toys for the kid's playroom, ranging from furReal animals, to board games, hockey sets and Toy Story dolls. All for the kids and all in the name of giving back around the holidays.
"These kids are going through some hard times at the hospital and we just to bring a little bit of cheer, a little bit of joy," Mayfield said. "It's not much that we do, we show up and hand out presents, but they really smile and it's good for us."
ISLANDERS HOSPITAL VISITS:
Cohen Children's Medical Center: Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Matt Martin, Scott Mayfield, Casey Cizikas
Stony Brook Hospital: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston
St. Mary's Childrens Hospital: Ryan Pulock, Seymon Varlamov, Anthony Beauvillier
Nassau University Medical Center: Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy
Good Samaritan Hospital: Thomas Greiss, Adam Pelech, Tom Kuhnhackl
NYU Winthrop Hospital: Josh Bailey, Derek Brassard, Johnny Boychuk, Mathew Barzal
Maimonides Medical Center: Noah Dobson, Devon Toews