NEW YORK -- If you ask New York Rangers center Dominic Moore, nobody perseveres alone, not in the fight against cancer and its devastating consequences.
Take the story of 10-year-old twin brothers Elijah and Nathaniel Blades of Freeport, N.Y. Elijah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two days before his fifth birthday. Once hospitalized, Elijah was separated from his brother for the first time. Although Elijah had to endure chemotherapy and its side effects, Nathaniel also fell sick because of the anxiety and the stress of seeing what his brother had to go through.
"If [Elijah] gets a cold and a fever, [Nathaniel] goes back into that shell because he's frightened," said Karon Blades, the boys' mother. "He thinks that his brother is going to get sick again. He asks his mommy, 'Is he OK? Is he going to die?' He's scared. He's a very happy little boy but seems to get down a lot now."
Along with another cancer patient, 16-year-old Anthony Lalicata from Whitestone, N.Y., the Blades twins were so happy they could hardly speak during their visit with Moore at the NHL Store in Manhattan on Tuesday as part of the League's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. Feeling stronger every day, Elijah's cancer is in remission, and Moore's message was that in unity there's strength. Through the power of love there is plenty of incentive to continue fighting the good fight.
"More often than not, it's the people themselves that their spirit shines through, the strength that they have," Moore said. "That's when people show that strength, when they're faced with that kind of adversity. It's inspiring to see that as an expression of life."
One night after Moore's Rangers scored five third-period goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and defeat the Minnesota Wild 5-4, he took the three boys shopping to buy stuffed animals, replica goalie masks and Stanley Cups, and other paraphernalia. Lalicata and the Blades twins could not contain their smiles while dressed in their Moore No. 28 Rangers jerseys.
"That's what makes it more special," Karon Blades said. "[Dominic] doesn't have to do this. He takes time out of his day, his busy schedule, just to meet with kids and make them feel good, and make them forget what they've been through. It's really amazing."
Moore has emerged as a philanthropist working with charitable endeavors since establishing the Katie Moore Foundation. Named after his wife Katie, who died at the age of 32 from a rare form of liver cancer, the foundation is dedicated to helping patients and families with rare cancers through research, advocacy and community. Moore's annual Smashfest Ping-Pong challenge helps charities assisting in the research of concussions and rare cancers, including the Katie Moore Foundation. This year's event in Toronto raised $140,000, more than doubling its total to $270,000 since 2012.
Moore has played in 612 NHL games for nine teams and in 69 Stanley Cup Playoff games, but there will be something about Nov. 5 that will separate it from the rest. Before the Rangers play the Detroit Red Wings, they will host a group of children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County, a Garden of Dreams partner that will receive a $5,000 grant from the Rangers and Hockey Fights Cancer.
"The game itself, yeah, it will be special to have the foundation highlighted and the cause highlighted, because that's something we all want to see happen," Moore said. "It will be fun."
To honor Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness month, which runs through Nov. 17, all 30 NHL teams will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night.
"Creating a community, people knowing that there other people out there in a similar boat, that in itself is a good thing," said Moore, winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. "The research side of it is something you can't even measure the progress, though, on a daily or even a yearly thing. You do what you can. You keep chipping away. All you can do is make progress."