As the Islanders prepare to host game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum, Isles co-owner Jon Ledecky and Isles mascot Sparky the Dragon spread the playoff spirit throughout Long Island on Monday.
Ledecky and Sparky personally surprised seven fans who were recently burdened by unfortunate circumstances, illness or loss, and their families with playoff tickets for Wednesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"The great thing about the New York Islanders is the community trust," Ledecky said. "We're stalwarts of that trust. To be able to take playoff tickets to those who truly need them, can't afford them or have been through personal hardship is a wonderful thing for the team to do. Sparky and I had a wonderful day meeting all of these terrific people. We're so excited about hosting them Wednesday night for the first night of the playoffs."
Ledecky and Sparky started the day off surprising Daniel and Christopher Ferrera at Sewanhaka High School, Andre Lewis from Floral Park Memorial High School and Ogden Toussant at Elmont Memorial High School.
During the afternoon, Ledecky and Sparky visited the homes of 18-year-old Dale Lillibridge, who is battling Ewing's Sarcoma for the second time, 11-year-old Peyton Wilson, whose father recently passed away, 17-year-old Derek Zacchino, who is battling brain cancer, and 17-year-old Robert Bancheri who was just diagnosed with Lymphoma.
Bancheri was surrounded by family and was sporting a No. 13 Mathew Barzal jersey when he opened his front door to see Ledecky and Sparky there to greet him. Bancheri had no idea that his aunt Katie had nominated him to receive the tickets.
"I literally had no clue," Bancheri said. "I was just told that my grandma was coming over for dinner I had no clue that everyone was just showing up. [It's] surreal. It just shows how much support I have from a pro sports team and from my whole family. It shows how big of a support group I have."
The avid Islanders fan is unable to make game one as he will have his first treatment that afternoon but hopes to be able to make game two on Friday night.
"This was such a shock to all of us," Katie Bancheri said. "He's a huge Islanders fan…I think it'll give him the strength to get through the chemo, this first round while he's staying the hospital. We don't know what to expect, but I think this will definitely be a happy part of that whole thing."
As the Islanders embark on their first postseason run since 2016, it was important for them to take time and give back to the community that offers its unwavering support.
"The children that we met today are so inspiring," Ledecky said. "The ones that are battling back against all odds of having some illness are terrifically inspiring. Not only to myself and Sparky, but to the whole team. We talked to the team about these great kids. [The Islanders] are excited to have them there rooting them on against the Penguins. I think it makes a difference. I think it makes a difference to the players and the community that they're going to be there rooting on their team."
Video: Ledecky Surprises Isles Fans With Playoff Tickets