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by Nicole Kingston / New York Islanders

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For the Islander family, work and activities throughout the Long Island community is just as important as the work on the ice. On Thursday afternoon, each player traveled to several hospitals to meet with children and share holiday gifts and joy.

For the third straight year, the players donated money, which was matched by the Islanders Children’s Foundation, to purchase gifts for children. On December 1, players were joined by their wives and girlfriends to shop at Toys ‘R Us in Carle Place to hand-pick the gifts themselves.

Team captain Doug Weight, who was at the Toys ‘R Us event with his wife Allison, went to Winthrop University Hospital Thursday with teammates Brendan Witt and Mark Streit.

“It’s a wonderful event to be a part of,” Weight said. To be able to come to the hospital and see their faces light up when we come through the door is an incredible experience. We’re very fortunate to play hockey to make a living and in this community it’s a real special thing we can do to give back.”

At each hospital, the players were greeted by dozens of children eager to meet their heroes. Once they arrived, the players went from room to room delivering gifts and spending a few minutes with each child.

“I think it’s a great cause,” Islander forward Josh Bailey said, during his visit to Nassau University Medical Center along with John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Jeff Tambellini. “I think we’re all excited to come in and try and put a smile on these kids’ faces and brighten up their day.”

The annual Islander hospital visits have become a long-standing tradition for the organization—a way to give back to fans and the surrounding Long Island community.

“The players have been coming for the past several years and the kids truly look forward to it,” said Nicole Almeida, Director of the Child Life Program at Winthrop University Hospital. “It really does bring a smile to the faces of the kids and it really makes it a little bit easier to stay.”

At Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, Richard Park, Martin Biron, Nate Thompson and Tim Jackman interacted with some of the children in the play room before walking around the halls. While some children were unable to come out of their rooms due to flu precautions, many came up to the windows to say hello and share a smile with the players.

At the Henry Viscardi School: National Center for Disabilities, Sean Bergenheim, Andy Sutton, Jon Sim, and Matt Moulson visited with 200 children in the school gymnasium. The players distributed Islander jerseys, comic books, folders and signed autographs for everyone.

While the day was special for those children in the hospitals, it was just as fulfilling for the Islander players who participated in the event.

“To give back is always something important to us,” Tavares said. “We’re very proud and we’re glad we’re able to do this. We know how much this means to the kids and we want to wish them all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.”

The following hospitals were visited on Thursday:

Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow—Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, Josh Bailey, John Tavares
Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola—Brendan Witt, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Mark Streit
Stony Brook Hospital, Stony Brook—Frans Nielsen, Rob Schremp, Blake Comeau, Andrew MacDonald
Good Samaritan Hospital, West Islip—Martin Biron, Richard Park, Tim Jackman, Nate Thompson
Henry Viscardi School: The National Center for Disabilities—Andy Sutton, Jon Sim, Matt Moulson
St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, Bayside—Freddy Meyer, Jack Hillen, Bruno Gervais, Dwayne Roloson
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