The children buzzed with anticipation at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park when word spread of a Thursday afternoon visit from New York Islanders’ forward Colin McDonald.
“One patient, who was in our bone marrow transplant unit, when we told her (McDonald) was coming, she literally gasped,” said Amanda Filippazzo, a Child Life Assistant at the hospital. “It was the first time in a while we’ve seen her smile and really just light up, and a lot of times they were so excited when he walked in the room.”
McDonald spent the afternoon meeting and interacting with young fans in different wings of the hospital, signing autographs and brightening the days of the patients. The visits from Islanders’ players give children the opportunity to forget about the hospital atmosphere for a while and enjoy the company of a professional hockey player. Every smile stuck with McDonald.
“These kids are going through such tough times and just to see them smile for just the little bit of time I’m with them, it's the least we could do, and it’s one way for us to give back to the community,” McDonald said.
McDonald visited “The Lion’s Den,” a playroom on a general pediatric floor. Eagerly awaiting the Islander, 12-year-old Joshua Martinez challenged McDonald to a game of NBA 2K12.
"I won't go too hard on you," Martinez said with a grin while setting up the game on his Xbox 360.
I’m just trying to make somewhat of a difference no matter how small it might be. - Colin McDonald
McDonald managed to keep the game close, but ultimately surrendered to Martinez 11-8. Nearby, 10-year-old Ian Chan took a homework break to thumb through a new set of Islanders trading cards. Chan, a newly converted Islanders fan, plans on rooting for McDonald and the Islanders during the upcoming season.
"It's pretty cool," Chan said. "I never really watch hockey, but it's pretty cool to meet a professional hockey player."
McDonald especially enjoyed meeting 15-year-old Laura Uribe, who clutched a new Islanders teddy bear and t-shirt. The visit reminded the forward how lucky he is to be in a position to give back.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of the situation we’re in being a professional athlete and trying to make somewhat of a difference no matter how small it might be,” he said.
What seems small to McDonald is huge for the kids at Cohen’s. McDonald left the children in high spirits and ready to cheer on their new favorite Islanders’ player when the puck drops in October.