It’s not common for an off-ice event to overshadow a thrilling home-and-home sweep of a division rival. Never mind when that victory is powered by a five-point performance from a home-grown fan favorite. Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, though, the Islanders made as big an impression in the community as they did on the score sheet, as the team raised over $50,000 for one of the nation’s most vital non-profit groups.
That’s over $10,000 for each point that Josh Bailey
scored in that night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
|John Walsh of America's Most Wanted and NCMEC co-founder dropped the ceremonial first puck with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Islanders Captain Mark Streit. |
The Islanders, their owner Charles Wang and Isles fans gave a giant assist to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Long Island’s team dedicated the entire evening to raising awareness and funds for the non-profit that helps protect children across the country. The co-founder of the NCMEC and host of America’s Most Wanted, John Walsh, attended the game with Wang and dropped the ceremonial first puck.
“The way to solve these problems (exploitation of children) is through the private sector,” Walsh said. “With business people, with sports teams, this is crucial to save kids and reduce the problems against children. It doesn’t matter if you live on Long Island, in Beverly Hills or anywhere else, it can happen to your family. I know from experience.”
In 1981, Walsh’s six-year-old son, Adam, was abducted. Walsh and his wife looked everywhere for help, but found a lack of coordination amongst local and national agencies. That led him to co-found the National Center and for the last 30 years, he’s helped to raise awareness and rescue children.
What I think is important here is getting their message across to parents,” Wang said. “It’s about creating awareness. There’s an organization out there that’s advocating the safety of our children and helps parents everywhere. They need to know there’s help out there and they can get it." - Islanders owner Charles Wang
Walsh never tried to do it alone though. He’s had plenty of help along the way. In 1999, after serving on the organization’s board and later becoming board president, Wang donated an entire building to the center to act as its headquarters. He hasn’t stopped supporting the NCMEC in the last 13 years and Thursday night was another of many vital contributions.
“What I do pales in comparison to John – he does such wonderful, amazing work,” Wang said. “You can’t discount the importance of children. Whatever we can do for them, we have to. They’re our treasures.”
That’s exactly why Wang organized this evening. $2 from every ticket sold went directly to the NCMEC. The 50/50 raffle and Chuck-A-Puck intermission contest each benefited the organization and volunteers collected monetary donations on the concourse all night long. Once those contributions were added up, Wang matched them and doubled the total donation for the evening. Even after that incredible gesture, Wang didn’t want to discuss what he was personally doing.
“What I think is important here is getting their message across to parents,” Wang said. “It’s about creating awareness. There’s an organization out there that’s advocating the safety of our children and helps parents everywhere. They need to know there’s help out there and they can get it.”
Holding this unprecedented fundraising event at a hockey game gave it an extra dimension that the usual ballroom or banquet hall may have lacked. It added an energy to the supporters and the supported.
“I’m thrilled to be here, I’m a die-hard hockey fan,” Walsh said. “What a way to cap off a long day – at an Islanders game. And the Islanders kicked butt!”
In more ways than one.