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Ledecky and Sparky Surprise Families Ahead of Round 1 of Playoffs

Co-Owner Jon Ledecky and Sparky the Dragon visited six families going through difficult circumstances gifting playoff tickets

by Cory Wright @WrightsWay / NewYorkIslanders.com

Carsyn Volpe's love of the Islanders runs deep. 

The 12-year-old's room is decked out with Isles gear, pictures and autographs with some of his favorite players, though there are plenty of them. 

It was fitting that Volpe, who is in his second battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma, was wearing Islanders socks long before getting a surprise visit from Co-Owner Jon Ledecky and Sparky the Dragon. Within seconds he was posing with Sparky and his selfie stick and opening up an Islanders gift basket, his mom Bernadette smiling behind a mask.

"He's an amazing kid and he loves the Islanders," Bernadette said. "I don't have words, this is amazing what the Islanders have done for him."

Ledecky came armed with some playoff tickets for the Volpes, inviting them to choose between Games 3 and 4 of the Islanders First Round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

"It inspires him to keep going. He's had a rough go since being eight years cancer free and having it come back," Bernadette said. "He's on a trial drug with a lot of side effects, so this is all a big distraction for him. This will be one of the best things he's received so far."

Tweet from @NYIslanders: A special day with our #Isles family! 💙🧡Today Islanders Co-Owner, Jon Ledecky, and Sparky surprised six local families going through challenging circumstances to spread a little playoff cheer! pic.twitter.com/6ai8qrheSK

That was the first of six stops on Ledecky's tour across Long Island, visiting families who are going through tough times and inviting them to a playoff game.

"The great thing is they can bring their families and bring their friends and they can have the time of their lives," Ledecky said. "They've been struggling during the pandemic and the extra burden of what they've been going through trying to get better, trying to fix their lives and bodies, to be able to do that now and go to a game. The team is rooting for them."

That struck a chord with the Milio family, who were decked out in Islanders gear, from jerseys to shirts to masks. They have a rescue cat named Sparky, named after the Islanders mascot, so naturally a meeting was in order when Sparky the Dragon showed up to the second visit of the day. 

Their eight-year-old daughter Madison is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer. She's in a wheelchair and is asleep for most of the day, but her family interreacts with her as if she's awake, so that she can absorb positive energy in the house. On Friday, she was surrounded by family and family friends, in addition to Ledecky and Sparky. 

The Milios were moved by the Islanders' generous gift of playoff tickets and playoff swag, but more so by the team's gesture of coming to visit in person. The family has adopted the mantra of Mighty Madison, and so did Ledecky, who traded in his Islanders mask for a Mighty Madison one.

"Madison has been sick for two years and the Islanders have just been so supportive," Kristen Milio said. "To think that the players that we hold so highly in our minds and in our hearts have thought about us, our baby and what we're going through is a beautiful thing."

Ledecky visited with Colin Clive afterwards, who was in need of some good news after a tough year. Clive, who is battling brain cancer, lost both of his parents in January and the community has since rallied around him. His friends started a GoFundMe that raised over $800K for his treatment and they arranged for the Islanders to visit on Friday. 

To make sure Friday was a surprise, his friends intentionally sat him with his back to the window when the Islanders caravan rolled up. Ledecky has always said the Islanders are a community trust, so if the community was going to wrap its arms around Clive, the Islanders would too. 

"It's a really satisfying and gratifying time for Isles Nation to know that these young men and women that we've seen today are going to get to the other side with what they're struggling with," Ledecky said.

There was cause for celebration on Friday as well. Matthew Inga, who was one day shy of his 13th birthday, had just completed his treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so a surprise from Ledecky and Sparky and the gift of playoff tickets made an already great day even better.

"It's overwhelming, the support," Michelle Inga said. "It means the world to us that you came out to support my son now that he's done his treatment. We're just so thankful, appreciative and excited, all of the emotions rolled into one."

Inga plans to bring his parents, brother and friends, who were all eagerly waiting on the lawn for Ledecky and Sparky on Friday. So was Harley, the family's seven-month old Golden Retriever who did some wrasslin' with Sparky on the front lawn. 

The fifth stop of the day was to visit Jake Feldman, a 13-year-old currently in remission from leukemia. He's a sled hockey player with the Long Island Rough Riders sled hockey team, and his jersey has the same colors and trim as the Islanders'. Ledecky gave Feldman, who is recovering from a corrective foot surgery, a new Isles jersey to go alongside it. 

Finally, Ledecky and Sparky visited the Reich family, who have longtime Season Ticket Members in the family and are raising their two young children to be fans. They were there to visit two-year-old Eli, who suffers from FOXG1 syndrome, which impairs development. The Reich family is trying to raise awareness for the rare condition and appreciated the support of the Islanders for helping spread the word. 

"It's special for us to get recognition for our cause," Scott Reich said. "Just like the team says, next person up, we feel that we're part of a special community here where we live. We feel like we're part of the Islanders family in some cool way and to have the team come and spend some time with us today and invite us to the playoffs is something that really warms our hearts."

Days like Friday are important to the team and it's not a one-and-done experience either. Ledecky still keeps in touch with fans he has met at previous surprise visits. If hard-working play is The Islander Way on the ice, this is The Islander Way off the ice. 

"We are stewards of a community trust," Ledecky said "The fans are the owners of the team and really matter in our world. To be able to help others in need is so gratifying and so satisfying."

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