Casey Cizikas describes Matt Martin as the unoffical Mayor of Long Island - and it's pretty clear why at the 4th Annual Matt Martin Foundation Poker Tournament.
Martin's mobbed by fans all night, signing autographs and snapping pictures, but does it all with a smile. He's grateful for the support for his foundation, the Matt Martin Foundation, which brings over 400 people to the event and raises over $100K for charity.
"The community is unbelievable," Martin said. "Every year [the event] seems to raise more and more money and that doesn't happen without the fan support and people coming and donating to raise money for good causes. It truly is remarkable the support we get and I'm very thankful for it."
The poker event - held at Chateau Briand - has grown exponentially over the past four years, a remarkable feat considering Martin played two of those seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's a testament to the roots Martin has laid on Long Island.
Video: Matt Martin Charity Poker Tournament
"The things that he does for [Long Island] are incredible," Cizikas said. "He brings so much joy and happiness and everything he does, it's for them and never for him and that kind of speaks to his character. So I think 'The Mayor' is a good nickname for him."
While the bulk of Martin's charitable work stays on Long Island, the Islanders winger was touched by the story of Kyle Laman, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who was shot during the tragic school shooting in February. Laman helped police identify the gunman in the shooting, but was left with PTSD, along with his physical wounds.
Touched by Laman's story, Martin arranged to get the sophomore a service dog - a German Shepard named Bruce - to help with the sophomore's PTSD.
Laman, along with Sgt. Jeff Heinrich, the Coral Springs police officer who led him to safety, and Bruce were all flown up from Florida to attend Thursday's event and meet Martin. The Islanders forward also presented the Parkland Cares Foundation with a $20K check, which was donated by the Matt Martin Foundation and Denny's Fashion, Style For All - a Long Island-based children's clothing store. Martin received a standing ovation from the poker players at the presentation.
"Everyone here who donates their hard-earned money for a great cause, to be able to see that money benefit somebody also makes it better for them," Martin said. "This is a chance to see what we do."
Martin added that his foundation is training two more service dogs and that he wants to make that a main focus of his future charitable endeavors.
While fans came out to show their support, so did the Islanders, who were celebrity guests at the tables. Martin appreciated their support, saying that most came on their own volition and that he didn't even need to ask.
"He's an easy guy to come and support for things like this," said Josh Bailey, the longest-tenured Islander and one of the team's top card players. "He puts his whole heart into it, he enjoys it, and he enjoys giving back and it all goes to great causes and it's also fun."
"He's obviously beloved here by a lot of people," Bailey added. "And for good reason."