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Garden of Dreams Holds Special Place for Players

Rangers Host GDF Night Monday Against Stars

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei summed up his affinity for the Garden of Dreams Foundation as simply as he could.

"I've said it over and over, you just love doing it," Skjei said before the puck drops between the Rangers and Stars on Garden of Dreams Night.

While the Rangers and the Garden of Dreams Foundation work together throughout the calendar year, tonight's event brings those in the organization front and center at Madison Square Garden, with several youngsters getting to live out once in a lifetime experiences at The Garden.

"We usually go out into the city and see what they're doing in their lives on a daily basis." Skjei said. "For us to bring them into the rink and show them what we do on a day-to-day basis will be a lot of fun."

Tonight's event is part of the larger Garden of Dreams Week, which began Sunday when the Knicks hosted Atlanta and includes a MSG Network Rangers fundraiser during Wednesday's Ranger game in Ottawa.

Defenseman Brendan Smith got his first chance this year to be part of a GDF event when he and Steven Kampfer joined hundreds of kids to play video games and other activities in Westchester. The experience has left an impression on him ever since.

"I think it's great," he said of GDF. "It was great to see the smiles on their faces and they were really looking forward to coming to the game and getting to see us play and get away from everything. It's a great experience.

"It's a great thing that the Rangers do," he said. "The amount that we can give back is great."

Boo Nieves has been in New York for less than two months, but has already have multiple chances to be part of GDF event, including earlier this month when he and Skjei served holiday meals at the National Geographic Encounter in Times Square.

"The Garden of Dreams does a really good job of getting the kids together and putting good events together," Nieves said. "Everything is great. It's nice to relate to the kids and honestly take their minds off of what they're going through, at least for a night."

The goal may be to provide a positive impact on the youngsters they're interacting with, but there's certainly an impact being felt by the players with every event, including tonight.

"You see those kids and families and they're all fired up to see you," Skjei said. "It can't not affect you. It makes you feel a lot better. Whatever we can do to help them out, we're going to do."

These experiences often cause self-reflection for players, including Nieves, who pay it back doing as much as they can for those who need it most.

"It makes me realize we have it really well," he said. "Sometimes you forget these kids are going through such tough times. It's nice to take a step back and realize how good we have it and realize the power that we have to make these kids happy."

For more information about the Garden of Dreams Foundation, visit their website

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