Monday, October 19, 2009

When the Islanders Came to Kirdhrey!

This entry will be some what more personal than the last few, so bear with me.

I have never been to one of the Islander school visits so when I saw that Sean Bergenheim, Richard Park and Robbie Schremp were going to be reading at a school close to my office, I thought it would be a good idea to see how they do.

I arrived at the Paul Kirdahy School in West Islip before 9 am, signed in and was directed to the gymnasium. Sean and Robbie were already there talking to Justin DeMaio, the fifth grade teacher responsible for setting up the visit. You couldn’t miss him. HE was the one in the Islanders jersey.

Considering their record at this early stage of the season, I was wondering what the reaction would be. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was Mr. DeMaio excited to have them, but so was PTA President Tracey Daleo, who brought her new old style DiPietro jersey, and school Principal John Mullins who sported one of the best hockey ties I’ve seen in years.

“I don’t see any Ranger jerseys. I looked.” So said Richard Park as he joined his team mates at the front of the gymnasium. That is what I was there to see.

For the longest time I have been bombarded by those telling me (or yelling at me) that there aren’t any Islander fans out here in the sticks. Well, I’d like everyone to know that of the 350 students and 60 teachers that crowded into the gymnasium in West Islip about 65% of them were wearing Islanders gear or at least Islander colors. They were positively giddy with excitement.

“There they are!!” exclaimed one little boy as he filed into the gym. “How did they get them to come HERE?” one of the teachers giggled. Mr. DeMaio played his favorite tunes on a boom box while the organized chaos ensured. But within minutes all five grades were quietly sitting on the floor ready to listen.

Principal Mullins gave the students their final instructions before turning the microphone over to Mr. DeMaio who did his best imitation of the Nassau Coliseum announcer. I wish I could post the audio of the rousing applause the boys received. These kids were so excited I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.

Richard Park, the father of two, took the microphone to start the program. “There’s a lot of energy in this room. That’s great. You have that type of energy in class?” He seems to be a pro at this sort of thing. Actually, most of the players have done this sort of thing before. Robbie Schremp participated in a reading program in Edmonton. Matt Moulson visited schools when he was with the Manchester Monarchs and Sean Bergenheim has represented the Islanders at least four times prior.

They are all happy to reach out to the youngsters and instill the importance of reading. Sean wanted them to also think about Geography when he explained that he was from a country in Scandinavia called Finland. “Try to look for it on a map. That’s where I’m from.” Richard Park got a collective giggle out of the students when he took the microphone away and told them it was going to be hard to find because Finland is a really, really small country.

But coming from that very small Country, Sean knows the importance of education and especially reading skills. He told the kids that not only is it important for their parents to read to them, but they should in turn read to their parents. This is all part of the PARP (Parents as Ready Partners) program as Tracey Daleo discussed with me earlier and what I remember from when my own daughter was in elementary school.

So while many of the other Islanders attended schools in Nassau County, these three were out here in the sticks. You know, the little known South Shore of Long Island that they never see, and where the kids finally got to see a glimpse of three New York Islanders up close and personal. It’s a day they’ll never forget.


Doug Davidson said...

Great work, Dee! It's always nice to catch a post that no other news outlet was at. Definitely a nice refresh of the norm.

25yearfan said...

Given the increasing ranks of NHL players who were born on Long Island, it would be great to have a player say "Who knows where the Rinx is? That's where I skated when I was your age..."