The Kelly family from Hampton Bays, New York were anticipating some financial assistance from the Chinese/Silent Auction organized by the Hampton Bays Mothers' Association (HBMA) last night. They got that and much more when Mike Dunham and Bruno Gervais of the Islanders, and Chris Anthony of the Dragons presented Patrick Kelly and his family with a brand new 2007 Ford Freestar van equipped with handicap accessories.
Also in attendance last night were Dragons head coach Weylan Harding, Dragons radio announcer Wayne Morris, Islanders TV announcer Billy Jaffe and Senior Vice President of Sports Properties Mike Milbury.
At birth, Patrick Kelly was diagnosed with a rare muscular disorder called Myotubular Myopathy X-Linked. The parents of Patrick, Fran and Noel, wanted Patrick to experience life like other children his age by easily leaving the house and seeing the outside world. In order to do so, the Kelly family hoped to raise enough money through the auction to enable them to purchase a van with multiple customized accessories that suit Patrick's needs. They never could have imagined the amount of help they were about to receive.
This is where the Islanders and Dragons stepped in, along with help from the community. Through dozens of donations from within the Islanders and Dragons organization and members of the Long Island community, enough money was raised prior to the auction to purchase the van.
"We are extremely overwhelmed right now," said Fran Kelly, Patrick's mother. "There are no words to describe the way we feel and we want to send a huge thanks to the Hampton Bays Mothers' Association, the Gambino Family and the Islanders and Dragons organization."
Rudy and Lisa Gambino from Hampton Bays combined for one of the largest contributions, donating a check for $15,000 in their daughter's -- Gabriella Ashley Gambino -- name. Rudy and Lisa started the Gabriella Ashley Gambino Scholarship Fund after their daughter passed away at the age of five with an undetectable heart condition.
Before the van was presented, the Islanders and Dragons signed autographs for the community members in attendance. More than a 1,000 people passed through the event held at Buckley's Inn Between on Montauk highway.
After signing autographs, the players and Coach Harding spoke to the crowd along with Milbury. The presentation was made outside in the rain, but the weather did not dampen the spirits of the supportive crowd.
"This was my first time in Hampton Bays and it is amazing the way your community pulls together to help out a family in their town," said Milbury. "It is not something you see everyday. We were happy we had the opportunity to be a part of this."
Milbury concluded his speech by re-introducing Dunham, Gervais and Anthony, who entered b driving up Patrick's new van with a large, green bow attached to the hood.
"It was great that the Islanders organization gave back to the community where it was really needed for a child who had a lot of things to overcome," said Dunham. Doing what we did makes it one less thing for the Kelly family to worry about."
"When I first met Fran Kelly (Mother), I looked at her and told her we were going to help and we were going to get her a van somehow," said Kerry Wilkie, co-founder along with Julie Lofstad of the HBMA. "She looked at me like I was crazy. Then we teamed up with the Islanders and Dragons and it was unbelievable the way they helped out. I knew it was going to happen and we were going to give the Kelly family a surprise of a lifetime."