By Jason Lockhart
On a gorgeous Thursday afternoon in New Hyde Park, Islanders defensemen Joel Bouchard, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais got a chance to experience life at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. They were greeted by smiling children, parents and staff.
The Ronald McDonald house is a "home away from home" for families with children in need of special surgery or who have major illnesses. It's located next to the Schneider's Children's Hospital so the families have easy access to their kids.
The players were given a tour of the beautiful house that opened just over 20 years ago when it had 18 rooms. It recently expanded to 42 rooms this past year and the players couldn't help but notice how nice the amenities were.
"This house has a lot of light and it's very bright," said Bouchard, who is a board member of a Ronald McDonald House in Montreal. "It's uplifting and they're doing a really great job of making it a nice place to live for the families."
Campoli couldn't help but comment on the food that was provided for the families: "If I were to live here I would gain so much weight," he said. "It seems like a wonderful place to call home."
After receiving a tour of the spacious house, the rest of the day was spent playing with the dozens of kids who came out into the sunroom to talk to the players and hang out with Sparky.
Halloween came a little early when the players presented Sparky costumes to the kids.
"Having the Islanders and Sparky here puts a smile on the kids' faces," said Stacie Rodriguez, a member of the Board of Directors. "But it also helps to have the Islanders here because it brings the press and media and it helps get our word out. It lets people know we're here. We have that obstacle to cross when people only think there's that house in Manhattan, but there is one on Long Island."
As the day came to a close and everyone said their goodbyes, Bouchard reflected on what the Ronald McDonald house means to him.
"This place is like a big brother that wraps its arm around you so you don't have to worry about staying anywhere, you don't have to worry about food, you just have to worry about your children and it'll take care of the rest," said Bouchard. "It's life-saving for a lot of families. And it's nice knowing you can make a difference in these kids' days."