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Hockey Fights Cancer

Oshie, Ovechkin, Capitals bond with kids at Hockey Fights Cancer skate

Players spread cheer in one-on-one time on ice

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Paul and Dee Swardz say their 5-year-old daughter, Michaela, is usually shy around strangers.

So they enjoyed seeing her almost immediately latch onto Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie during the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer skate at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Saturday.

"T.J. picked her up and was skating around with her and she just had this huge smile," Paul Swardz said.

For the skate, a child from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic was paired with a Capitals player.

Children from Flashes of Hope, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network also participated in the skate.

Michaela, an Arlington, Virginia native, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 25 months old.

"She's considered a cancer survivor at this point," Dee Swardz said. "She's still in remission and we just hope for that same going forward."

Oshie, and his wife, Lauren, have two daughters -- Lyla, 4, and Leni, 2 -- and he understands the importance of events like this for the children and their families. At the Capitals' Hockey Fights Cancer skate two years ago, he was paired with Addy Flint, a 10-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia who had kidney cancer.

Oshie remains close with Flint, who learned she was cancer free on June 6 - the day before the Capitals won the Stanley Cup - and was at the skate on Saturday.

"Obviously, none of us have an idea of what the kids are going through," Oshie said. "To just get out there and make them smile and give them a good day, it makes you feel good and it's something you want to do."

Josiah Desper, a 7-year-old from Laurel, Maryland who has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), had never skated before Saturday, but appeared to take to it quickly after Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin greeted him with a hug. His mother, Sha Desper, was stunned when she learned her son was going to be paired with Ovechkin.

"I didn't think it was real at first," Sha Desper said. "I waited to tell him until he got here, so he wouldn't bug me about it. But when he got here he kind of lit up and he was ready to go."
Josiah said Ovechkin is his favorite player and taught him about "[skating] fast and slowing down."

The hour on the ice with Ovechkin was a welcome distraction from treatments.

"It keeps his mind off of it," Sha Desper said. "He doesn't have to worry about doctors, hospitals, needles, treatment, pills. As you see, he's fully enjoying himself. That's why I bring him out to stuff like this."

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