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Heisman Visit at Mount Sinai

December 10, 2018 in News

On Sunday, December 9th, newly-minted 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray from Oklahoma University visited patients at Kravis Childrens Hospital at Mount Sinai.

He participated in a hospital-wide broadcast from the Kids Zone, made a couple of bedside visits and then visited the hospital’s Lion’s Den Room. Pediatric patients from other children’s hospitals across the Lion’s Den Network participated in a Google Hangout with the star quarterback. There were many smiles from the patients and Kyler as they asked him about his morning routine, his chances against the University of Alabama in the upcoming college football playoffs, and his favorite candy!

Murray is the second consecutive Oklahoma quarterback (Baker Mayfield in 2017) to visit the hospital on the day following the Heisman announcement. These visits go a long way to buoying the spirits of pediatric patients at both Kravis Children’s and across the Lion’s Den Network. The Heisman Trophy Trust has been partnered with Companions in Courage Foundation for a decade in providing access to college football’s top player for these very meaningful patient visits.

Santa Delights Across the Continent

December 6, 2018 in News

On December 4th and 5th, the 2018 version of Santa Connection was conducted in a dozen children’s hospitals throughout North America. More than 100 pediatric patients and their siblings got the chance for a personal visit with Santa Claus (and Pere Noel in Ottawa and Montreal!) via a live Google Hangout.

As always, this event is an emotional roller coaster replete with ample amount of laughter and tears.

The difference made by volunteers from Cisco, Google, St. Dominic High School and YouTube could best be articulated by Alexa at Cohen Children’s Hospital on Long Island, who told Santa that all she wanted for Christmas was to be able to go home with her family… Don’t we all wish that for each of these special children?

We danced with Elijah at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when “Eesh the Elf” revealed that he was on Santa’s “Nice” list. We celebrated with Abigail at Oishei Children’s in Buffalo when it was revealed that she had her intubation tube removed that morning. We cheered on Kreek at Wolfson Children’s in Jacksonville as he celebrated his discharge day. Three-year-old Chloe at Ste. Justine in Montreal made us laugh when she brushed aside her nasal intubation to mimic Pere Noel’s “Ho! Ho! Ho!” And 11-year-old Leon brought a tear to Santa’s eye when he shared how he had created a Harry Potter Bingo game for his fellow patients at Kravis Children’s at  Mount Sinai in New York so they wouldn’t feel so alone in the hospital.

Far more patients than in any previous year accessed the Santa Connection from isolated rooms, where Child Life staff had to first don masks and gowns before conducting the session via Chromebook. This just amplified the importance of this annual program as we try and reach special children who simply cannot visit Santa in a shopping mall.

Through the generosity of Companions in Courage Foundation donor, every child received a gift card from Santa. These heartwarming visits reminded us all to be “good, for goodness sake!” For all who contributed their talents it helped put perspective on what the holidays are all about.

Nicole Oliver Records “Personal Best”

November 16, 2018 in News

By Amy Moritz, Buffalo News | Published November 10, 2018 

The joy was gone.

Nicole Oliver loved running, grew up running and was pretty competitive during her high school days at Williamsville South and in local road races.

But life happens, including being diagnosed with dystonia at age 20. The condition is a movement disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily. As she sought the treatment that worked best for her, running became a challenge both physically and mentally.

Her times got slower and her performance didn’t match what she so desired to do. Oliver lost her motivation. She started telling people she didn’t run anymore.

Finally, her husband, Nate, initiated the difficult conversation to get Nicole running again.

“Nate told me, ‘You can run. You can go out and run 10 miles if you wanted to,’’’ Oliver said. “Still, I was really struggling with enjoying running anymore. It got to be around the time where people were posting about training for the New York City Marathon and I was just really down. And t

hen I started to think Nate was right. I can still run. He told me I was throwing away a gift.”

See, Oliver might not have been up to her speed standards, but she still could go out and whip out a long run of 10 or 12 miles. She might not feel that great after it, but it wouldn’t faze her. She had a talent for running, even if that talent wasn’t about crossing the finish line before everyone else.

So yes, she could still run. She would still run. She decided to train for a marathon and settled on the Niagara Falls International Marathon in late October. But in order to keep her motivation, in order to give her perspective and rekindle the joy, Oliver needed to find a bigger reason to run. She started researching charities and settled on the Companions in Courage Foundation, founded by former Buffalo Sabre Pat LaFontaine. The charity connects hospitalized children with their family, friends and heroes, by building interactive playrooms in hospitals. Kids get to be kids, at least for a little while, during battles with illness and disease.

Oliver created a Facebook Page, Nicole Runs for A Purpose, to share her training while raising money for Companions in Courage and spreading its message. The task not only brought her joy, but helped her reconnect with her own childhood, including asking her mom to dig out the LaFontaine poster that hung in her room when she was in fourth grade.

“I was reliving my childhood and watching some YouTube videos,” Oliver said. “He was such a great hockey player. He came to my elementary school when I was 8 and that’s what really got me turned on to hockey.”

Her whole attitude toward running shifted. She found joy in running for people other than herself. It even helped her when she suffered a groin injury 12 weeks into training. She had to take time off and decided to bump down from the marathon to the half-marathon — a distance she had run many times in training but never raced. She knocked out the half-marathon and claimed her first 13.1-mile distance medal, finishing the race on Oct. 14  in 1:54:42.

“My whole perspective on running has changed,” Oliver said. “There’s this certain joy and happiness you can find from endurance training and racing where it’s not about you and not about your times. Having a goal in mind is great, but when you think about helping people less fortunate than you, it’s just I can’t put it into words. I felt like I had run the best race of my life. It certainly was not the fastest, but I crossed that finish line and felt like this has been the best race so far.

“The day before the race, I was looking at the weather and it was supposed to be cold and rainy, and Jim Johnson, the executive director of Companions in Courage, said it would be an easy day in comparison to what the pediatric patients I’d be helping were going through,” she said. “I thought about that Mile 12 and he was right about that. For every honor or trophy or medal I’ve received in high school or road racing, this was more meaningful.”

16th Annual CiC Golf Classic is Epic!

October 23, 2018 in News

HUNTINGTON, NY, September 27, 2018  –  The 16th Annual Companions in Courage Foundation Golf Classic took on epic proportions when Pat LaFontaine decided to recognize all members of the New York Islanders selected last year for Hockey’s 100, along with the members of the team who have had their number retired.

Huntington Country Club on Long Island was buzzing with excitement as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Bill Smith were joined by Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies. (Earlier in the week, Denis Potvin stopped by to autograph items, since he would be in Florida to broadcast a Panthers’ game on the day of the outing). The legendary group helped raise money and awareness for the organization that now serves almost 60,000 pediatric patients per year in hospitals throughout North America.

A record number of golfers teed it up on a perfect fall day, on a beautiful golf course. Michigan artist Paul Madden spent the day completing a commemorative original drawing of the five Islanders players voted to Hockey’s 100. The piece would be auctioned at a spirited post-event dinner attended by 150.

The Islander legends participated in panel discussion that included remembrances of recently passed G.M. Bill Torrey and hilarious stories of the team’s celebrating with the Stanley Cup. Mike Bossy took particular note of the charitable work conducted on Long Island, especially by his former teammates, Nystrom, Gillies and LaFontaine. Each foursome sponsor received a unique image of the retired Islander banners, personally autographed by each Islanders legend.

LaFontaine introduced 32 unique double magnum bottles of The Pinot Line – a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – created in order to donate all proceeds to the foundation. Within a matter of minutes, he had raised more than $30,000 for the charity by offering the wine and autographed jerseys from each of the legends in attendance. Harmony Home Concierge Service served as Franchise Sponsor for the day and also contributed 100 gallons of home heating oil, and a 10,000-watt portable gas generator to the raffle. Sal Paterno of Milano Men’s Fashion also generously contributed gift certificates to his Huntington men’s clothing store. Joe McMahon of the McMahon Family  Foundation donated an autographed Matthew Barzal jersey that drew a lot of attention.

The day was filled with poignant moments, including traditional tributes (at Amen Corner) to CiC Foundation supporters who have passed on. The golf course, and later, the dining room was filled with a spirit and enthusiasm that is contagious and inspiring.

Tricia Hiller, Director of Child Life at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester County Medical Center delivered a stirring keynote presentation on the importance of services like a Lion’s Den Room in patient care.  Her hospital is the site of the first of the 20 Lion’s Den Rooms that have opened across North America. Hiller brought tears to many eyes as she validated the value of the rooms to patients, their families and to healthcare professionals at the hospital.

In addition to the Islanders legends, LaFontaine also welcomed former teammates Ken Morrow, Brian Mullen and Benoit Hogue. The field of celebrities included former NBA star Wally Szczerbiak, his dad Walter Szczerbiak, and hockey’s Pat Jablonski.

CiC Foundation board member Jerry Wood, was the overall champ on the course, shooting a 68. He won a match of cards over another member of his foursome, Clark Gavin . David Lehanski, from the NHL Foundation foursome, won the Long Drive contest with a bomb on Hole # 7, while Chris Thompson (5’2”) won the Closest-to-the-Pin contest on Hole #12. Todd Carroll (in the net!) won the “Nearest-to-the-Net” contest on #18. Alex Kwiatkowski posted the Ladies’ Low Score (87) to capture that trophy. Andi Husted of Phoenix won Ladies’ Closest-to-the-Hole on 12, while Jacque Husted took the Ladies’ Long Drive on #7.

The foursome of Wood, Gavin, Steve Fisher and Paul Mazzola took the low gross team honors with a score of 59. By three strokes, they bested the runner-up teams of Sean McAuley, Chris Thompson, Chris Montanaro and Rob Walter; along with Nick Patti, Jr., Mike Patti, Rob Ronne and Mike Whelan.

Many golfers took advantage of pre-round massage and stretching offered by Steven Login of Golf & Body. His Huntington shop features proactive physical therapy and wellness for men and women looking to remain active.

LaFontaine thanked the Franchise sponsor – Steve Goldman of Harmony Home Concierge service. He also thanked the Major sponsors that included Rob MacInnis, Striano Electric, Lombardi Design, NHL Foundation, Ferreira Construction, Sean McAuley, Jerry Wood, Delaney Contracting, Patti & Sons, Inc., TVR Communications, Unsung Siblings Foundation, Croatian-American Foundation, Discount Tire, Capital One Bank, Botto Mechanical, the Lake Placid Wreckers, Harbor Irrigation, Cameron Engineering & Associates, Paul Gillin, Soldier Design, Polymers-Merona, Valor Hockey and Sun Seven Stars Media.

LaFontaine also thanked Harmony Home for sponsoring the dinner, Jim Botto of Botto Mechanical for sponsoring the Caddies; John Cameron for sponsoring the Halfway House, Jerry Wood for sponsoring the Texas Hold’em Tournament;  Rob MacInnis for sponsoring the Premium Cigars; Andrew Cameron of BNB Bank for sponsoring the Driving Range.