Christmas came early when three players with the NHL’s New York Islanders brought a bounty of holiday gifts to children at Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital.
New York Islanders forwards Mike Haley (#18) and Tim Wallace (#36), accompanied by defenseman Travis Hamonic (#3), played the role of Santa’s helpers on December 7, delivering toys, gift cards, and good cheer to hospitalized children. The players visited with patients and their families, signing autographs and giving away team photos.
Recipients included Alysse Thomas, age 2, of Bellport. Her father, Andre Thomas, beamed as his daughter received gifts and photos from the players. She received a book and doll, plus a gift certificate for Dad to buy more toys later, then exchanged a “low five” with Hamonic.
Chris Buchalski, 15, from Miller Place, received portable speakers and headphones. A football player at Miller Place High School, Chris lay in his hospital bed recovering from surgery after a knee injury suffered during football season.
Alalia Marrero, 16, a sophomore at Newfield High School, received similar gifts. “I don’t know a lot about hockey,” she admitted, “but it’s nice.”
Veronica Franco, 10, of Rocky Point, also reacted with gratitude, even though she isn’t a hockey fan. “It’s cool to see them here,” she said. Her mother, Joanna, chimed in, saying “We’re going to be a fan now.”
The Islanders’ visit was organized by the Child Life Program at Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital and the New York Islanders. Through the Child Life Program, professionals provide therapeutic, educational, and recreational activities to meet the unique emotional and developmental needs of hospitalized children. Activities include medical play therapy, games, arts and crafts, as well as specialized programs such as animal assisted therapy, music therapy, and birthday and holiday parties.