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Mario Lemieux sends gift, encouragement to ill child

5-year-old with leukemia surprised by note, autographed puck from Penguins legend @NHLdotcom

Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and chairman Mario Lemieux scored 690 NHL goals during his Hockey Hall of Fame career that ended in 2006, but recently earned a huge assist in a child's battle against leukemia.

Lemieux sent a surprise package to the home of Pittsburgh sports radio commentator Colin Dunlap, whose 5-year-old daughter Darran was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in November and is being treated at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. 

Darran received an unsolicited note and autographed puck from Lemieux, who fought and defeated Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993 when playing for the Penguins.

The note and a picture of the puck were tweeted by Colin Dunlap:

Tweet from @colin_dunlap: This came to our home today 100 percent unsolicited.You talk about class?Mario Lemieux is the height of class.

"When I was sick and in the hospital, my family and friends always gave me comfort," Lemieux wrote. "Their support was very helpful to me and I encourage you to keep your friends and family close. I'm sending you a signed hockey puck; I hope it makes you smile! … I wish you and your family all the best. I know it gets tough, but continue to fight and stay strong. You can do it!"

This is not the first time Lemieux has lent support to those fighting cancer.

"A lot of what Mario does is behind the scenes," Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan told "He's done these kinds of letters for years. Usually they don't become public. This one did, which is fine. It's kind of always been the belief that just a word from him, someone who's been through it, could mean a lot. So that's just the purpose of him doing that. We obviously were aware of Colin's daughter's situation.

"He has done these types of letters to people battling cancer many times over the years. He and we have come to realize that a word of encouragement from him can really help to brighten someone's days. He realized that from the time when he was able to battle his way through cancer and beat it, that having a word from someone who's gone through it, it's always good to get support, but when you have a word from someone who's been through it, it can mean a little more. It's just an attempt to reach out and offer some words of encouragement to people who are going through some tough times."

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