By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
One year ago today, Melissa DiMataris was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.
On Tuesday night, a recovering Melissa not only attended her first hockey game at Madison Square Garden, she also sang the National Anthem prior to the Rangers contest with the Florida Panthers.
“Oh my gosh, it was the best experience ever,” exclaimed DiMataris, 20, after exiting the ice to thunderous applause. “I’m still shaking. I don’t have the words to describe it. It was exhilarating.”
|Melissa DiMataris, who is winning her fight against cancer, had a truly winning moment when she performed the National Anthem before Tuesday night's Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. |
DiMataris received the opportunity to perform the anthem through the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity that strives to "make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles." Members of the foundation heard DiMataris sing earlier this month at a benefit reception for the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy department at the Westchester Medical Center, where she receives treatments to thwart her cancer, and arranged for Tuesday’s on-ice performance.
“Garden of Dreams brought the Rockettes to the hospital through the child life program,” said DiMataris, who is hoping to conclude treatment early this summer and then return to Rockland Community College in the fall. “I told them I love to sing, and now I am here! All my friends are so excited. It’s all over Facebook!”
The Blauvelt, N.Y., resident arrived at The Garden around 5 p.m. and soon thereafter was down on the ice for a run-through of the anthem. She received a behind-the-scenes tour of MSG and even saw several of the players preparing for Tuesday’s game.
“This is my first hockey game ever,” said DiMataris. “I’m really excited. I got a glimpse of it all. I even saw some of the players kicking around a (soccer) ball in the back of the arena!”
After performing a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, DiMataris watched the Rangers win their fifth game in a row from a suite inside The Garden.
Buoyed by her special night at MSG, DiMataris now looks to finish the painful battle she has been winning.
“I’m at the hospital mostly for outpatient stuff now,” she said. “I’m getting my life back together. It’s awesome!”