For the past 10 years, Brendan and Salima Witt have headed up a program called "Witter's Hitters," to enrich the lives of children touched by cancer. Founded in 1998, when Witt was a member of the Washington Capitals, "Witter's Hitters" allows local children stricken with the disease to enjoy an unbelievable experience at an NHL game. After signing with the Islanders, prior to the 2006-07 season, the Witts brought "Witter's Hitters" to Long Island.
Each month, Salima hosts kids in a Nassau Coliseum suite during an Islanders game. Normally, Brendan is on the ice playing, but Saturday night was an exception. Due to Brendan's injury, he was able to join his wife and the kids in the suite. The Witts were joined by Vincent Disponzio, Matthew and Michael Salter, Michael Johnson and their families.
"Salima and Brendan have been hanging out with the kids and making sure they have a good time," said Donna Johnson, Michael's mother. "They've been wonderful."
Along with seats in a VIP suite, the kids also received Brendan Witt youth replica jerseys and gift bags. But they were most excited about all of the great food, including cotton candy and ice cream.
"The best part about being up in the suite was the food and the good seats," said Michael Johnson, who along with Michael and Matthew Salter and Vincent Disponzio gave Brendan and Salima a huge 'thank you.’
It was an extra-special night in Suite "S" at the Coliseum, as Witt was not the only member of the Islanders to hang out with the kids. Also paying visits were Andy Sutton, Mike Sillinger and Josh Bailey
. The suite was filled to capacity.
"This is the best attended "Witter's Hitters" on Long Island," said Salima. "I'm just so happy the kids had a great time tonight. It was both of our ideas to do something like this as opposed to just donate money. Now they're fans for life. We look forward to doing it again next month."
During the second period intermission, Brendan told all of the kids that after the game there was a special surprise––they would meet the players following the game and have their new Witt jerseys signed. A huge cheer came from the kids..
"Fortunately I have two healthy children, but I see families that have to battle through medical costs and it's tough," said Brendan. "You don't have a choice when you get cancer, you just get it. It's tough on them even if they're in good spirits all of the time. I don't wish for any child to be put behind the 8-ball like that. It's tough to see."
While the kids undoubtedly were touched by this night, it may be the parents who appreciated it the most.
"It's overwhelming what the Witts did for these kids," said Diane Salter, mother of Michael and Matthew. "They're going to talk about this for a very long time. It's all about making memories." Watch
IslandersTV's Skates & Smarts with Brendan Witt––the art of bodychecking.