Mother's Day Surprise 2024

There were Isles in the aisles at the Stop & Shop in Carle Place on Wednesday morning, as Sparky the Dragon and former Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns joined a family of five decked out in Islanders jerseys to go on a grocery shopping spree. 

The New York Islanders teamed up with Stop & Shop to celebrate Stefanie Balestrieri, a devoted hockey mom, with a bouquet of flowers, a $500 gift card for a shopping spree and Islanders jerseys for herself, husband and three kids. 

“It’s a shopping spree to say thank you to Stefanie for Mother’s Day,” said Daniel Wolk, External Communications Manager at Stop & Shop. “No one works harder than moms do. This is a way for us to come together with the Islanders to say thank you with a wonderful day of shopping with the family.” 

Stefanie is the backbone of her hockey-centric family. Her 11-year-old daughter Angelina, nine-year-old son Matthew and six-year-old son Joey all play hockey and began skating through the Islanders Learn to Play Program. As a hockey mom, Stefanie helps the kids with equipment,  drives to early morning games and tournaments and cheers them on every step of the way.  

“We travel everywhere for the kids,” Ken Balestrieri said of his wife. “She helps our daughter and our two sons out tremendously. It’s a lot of work for her, she’s amazing.”

Her hard work is appreciated by her husband, and of course, her three kids. 

“A million out of ten,” Joey said, when asked how much he loves his mom.

Running gleefully up and down the aisles, the kids loaded up on their favorite snacks – specifically Tostitos, Pirate's Booty and chicken nuggets - while also making sure they got enough double-stuffed Oreos and Sour Patch Kids.

It was a much-needed boost for the family, who survived a car accident in December. Ken and Stefanie endured treatment at the ICU and the couple stayed strong for their kids. The road to recovery has been long and challenging, but Wednesday’s fun excursion lifted the family’s spirits.

“This makes me really happy,” Stefanie Balestrieri said. “The last five months have been really hard on us. We’ve been home trying to recover and do our best for our little kids, and they’ve been awesome for us. And this here today, is an unexpected but happy surprise.”

For Cairns, joining their shopping spree and getting to know with the Balestrieri family was extra special, as their story and strength struck a chord with him.

"Anytime you see a human being show perseverance through a tough event is always a good thing, especially for the kids to be part of that too," Cairns said. "[Ken and Stefanie] showed their kids leadership, bravery and courage. For them to get rewarded with something like this is a really cool thing to see."

Hockey has been an outlet for the family through tough times. After Stefanie had surgery, she was determined to recover so she can watch Angelina play on the Islanders Girls Elite Hockey team. In Stefanie’s very first game back in the stands since the accident, Angelina potted her first goal with the team. It was especially meaningful that her mom was there to catch the milestone.

Angelina Balestrieri

“It was a moment that brought us together even more,” Ken Balestrieri said. “She was there to see that after all we went through. That was a perfect example of how the sport really brings us together.”

It’s special for Ken and Stefanie to watch their children bond over the sport of hockey. Angelina, their oldest, leads the charge and loves to watch her little brothers play. Being a helpful older sister, she’d often bring a notepad to the rink to watch her nine-year-old brother skate, taking notes on how he did and relaying feedback when they got home.

The whole family has been Islanders Season Ticket Members since UBS Arena opened, but Ken has been attending Islanders games for decades, so it was a trip down memory lane for him to reminisce with Cairns about the 2002 playoff series against Toronto. They chatted about hockey in the aisles of Stop & Shop as the whole family had a memorable and fun experience.

"It was a really cool event, giving the kids a good time in the supermarket, allowing them to have fun and pretty much pick whatever they want,” Cairns said. “I enjoyed seeing the smiles on those kids and their parents. It was great for me to see I'm a family man too."