Professional and amateur skaters took to the ice April 15 for a charity hockey game to raise money for two very dedicated and worthwhile organizations. The 2nd Annual Kings Park/Commack Alumni vs. NY Islanders Alumni Hockey Game, held at the Superior Ice Rink, attracted 1,200 spectators and raised approximately $16,000 to be split between the Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc. and the Frank J. Rizzo V Memorial Scholarship Fund.
"The turnout was phenomenal. What a wonderful way to honor Sarah and Frank," said Matt Weippert, who along with his wife Marissa established The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc. nine years ago.
Kevin Barattini, captain of the Kings Park/Commack Alumni Hockey Team, organized the fundraiser to support both The Sarah Grace Foundation and the scholarship fund established in honor of his friend and teammate Frank Rizzo who died in a car accident in September 2010.
This year's game pitted retired professional hockey players Clark Gillies, Benoit Hogue, Bobby Nystrom, Mick Vukota and Doug Weight, among others, against members of the Kings Park-Commack Alumni Hockey Team. Former New York Jet and radio personality Boomer Esiason along with co-host Craig Carton also took to the ice. Following the game, which ended 6-5 in favor of the all-stars, the players signed and auctioned off their game-day jerseys.
"We cannot begin to thank Kevin Barattini for organizing the event and, once again, making us a part of it," said Weippert, adding, "We are also especially grateful to Sal Ferro, president of Alure Home Improvement, for his generosity and for being a friend and supporter, and to Rich McGuigan for use of the rink. We are so grateful to everyone involved who recognized both these causes and reached out to make a difference."
After losing their 12-year-old daughter Sarah Grace to Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 2002, the Weipperts set out to keep her memory alive while helping other children and their families facing the financial and emotional challenges and hardships brought upon by childhood cancer.
The non-profit, volunteer-run organization works directly with social workers and staff members from the Pediatric Oncology Departments at various New York hospitals – including Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, Winthrop’s Cancer Center for Kids, Nassau University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian – to help meet the needs of the sick child and their siblings.
To do so, the non-profit, volunteer-run organization relies on donations and money raised through garage sales, custom Christopher Radko Heart and Angel collector pieces and special fundraising events such as its annual Night of Laughter, the charity hockey game and, most recently, a dance-a-thon sponsored by Steppin-N-Style Dance Studio in Levittown.
Students obtained pledges for the amount of time they would dance and, according to studio owner Laura Bowen, all participants danced for two hours. The event was a huge success, with approximately $1,100 raised for the Foundation.
"We are extremely grateful to Laura for organizing the dance-a-thon and to her students for participating," said Weippert. "Our heartfelt thanks go out to them for their efforts and for honoring Sarah's memory."
Bowen, whose daughter was friends with Sarah Grace, said she always wanted to do something to help the Foundation and its mission. A dance-a-thon, she said, was the perfect fundraiser. "The girls had a blast and really enjoyed doing something for a good cause," Bowen said, adding, "I would love to do it again next year!"
According to Weippert, the money raised at the charity hockey game and the dance-a-thon will "help fund the many programs the Foundation sponsors throughout the year, including The Bead Program, Gabe’s Chemo Duck, book carts and more as well as enable us to continue providing financial aid to families in need."
Currently, The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc. is gearing up for its 2nd Annual Theatrical fundraiser. "Unrehearsed: A Night of Improv" will take place on Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at 7 p.m. in the Hicksville United Methodist Church Social Hall, 130 W. Old Country Road, Hicksville.
The Sarah Grace Foundation For Children With Cancer, Inc. provides financial support and other assistance to help families offset medical costs and other related expenses. To do so, The Sarah Grace Foundation relies heavily on donations from the community. To find out how you can help, call (516) 433-9745 or visit www.TheSarahGraceFoundation.org.
Donations or requests for information may be sent to The Sarah Grace Foundation at 217 Plainview Road, Hicksville, NY 11801.