BOSTON -- Lauren Mannarino walked up to the Stanley Cup, lifted her foot in a mock-dancer's pose and wrapped her arms around it. Her father had season tickets throughout her childhood, she had fond memories of going to games at Boston Garden with him -- and now here was the Cup, right in front of her. It was yet another way that the American Cancer Society AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Boston had brought a smile to her face as she endured cancer treatment.
It was the second of four stops at Hope Lodges in North America for the Stanley Cup, having been in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday, Boston on Wednesday, New York on Thursday, and St. Louis on Saturday, as part of Hockey Fights Cancer month in the NHL.
There are over 36 Hope Lodges across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. They exist to provide free housing for adult cancer patients and caregivers who live far away from the best treatment center for their disease.
On Wednesday, the Cup was accompanied by retired NHL defenseman Andrew Ference, who showed off his ring from the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup victory and posed for numerous photos with the 40 residents and caregivers currently at the Lodge.
"It's incredibly important to support fundraising efforts that are directly coming to places like this," Ference said. "Our partnership with American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society; a lot of the money from Hockey Fights Cancer is coming to the Hope Lodges.
"As a player sometimes you have campaigns [but] you don't really see the actual end result of those campaigns or of the work and the fundraising. So every time I get to do something like this and actually see the actual place and hear about what they do and the impact that it has on people's lives, you're like, all right, I get it. It's just so incredibly important to have spaces like this."
Ference was also there for the Lodge's weekly bell ringing ceremony, when the residents who are "graduating" from treatment give a speech and ring a bell, often explaining just how much the place has meant to them, getting a teddy bear and a certificate. Mannarino was one of them on Wednesday.
So was Robert Desmarais.
"The good thing about this place, it's like therapy 24/7," he said. "Because you sit down here and you talk to somebody that has the same issues or similar issues to what you have, and when you start talking like that, cancer isn't a big word anymore."
On Thursday, the NHL celebrated its "adoption" of a room at the Jerome L. Greene Family Center in New York. NHL employees served dinner, and there was a visit from the Cup and two-time Stanley Cup winner Adam Graves.
"There's not too many things more powerful in hockey than the presence of the Stanley Cup, whether it's the hard core, the casual [fan], it's just such a symbol of happiness," said Graves, who won the Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990 and the New York Rangers in 1994. "To be able to bring it to the Hope Lodge and to see all of these incredibly strong people that are battling cancer, I know, speaking with many of them, that it meant a lot that the Stanley Cup was brought to the Hope Lodge."
Graves said he was able to spend a couple of hours on Thursday night sitting with the residents, talking with them, understanding their experience and the impact that the Hope Lodge has made on them, "just listening to what Hope Lodge means to them and their families and how it's one of those incredible opportunities when you need it the most."
"For most everybody, there is a personal connection, having gone through [it], knowing somebody close who has dealt with cancer," Ference said. "It's not hard for people to relate to what that is - missing work, having to come get treatment, the physical and emotional trauma that people go through.
"I think sometimes people think that, oh, money just goes to research to find a cure. But I think sometimes you need to be reminded that there are the hidden expenses and costs of being out of work for six weeks and having to come to a city that's a few hundred miles away to get your treatment. Investing in somebody's quality of life as they're going through something like that, to put them in a place where there's other people going through the same thing and they have a community built in, what's the value in that?"