On Friday at Rockefeller Center, Ronald McDonald House New York held its 24th Annual Skate with the Greats fundraiser. Icons and fan favorites were in attendance including Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Colton Orr, Stéphane Matteau, and Nick Fotiu.
Rod Gilbert, President of the New York Rangers Alumni Association, has been involved with the Ronald McDonald House New York since 1994.
“Twenty-four years ago Vivian Harris invited me for lunch at the House,” Gilbert told Blueshirt Banter. “She showed me their work; she showed me their rooms where they were housing kids with terminal kids. After lunch she asked me, ‘What can you do for us?’”
Since that meeting, Rod and his wife Judy Gilbert knew that their own donations wouldn’t be enough. They formed a partnership with the Ronald McDonald House of New York that has lasted for nearly a quarter of a century. Gilbert has given countless hours to promoting and fundraising for the House. Even on a night filled with autographs, laughter, and retired players strapping on their skates to join diehard fans on the Rink at Rockefeller Center, Gilbert is focused on what is at stake.
“These kids don’t have the time,” Gilbert explained to Blueshirt Banter. “If this is not provided – the Houses and everything they offer to the kids, an ambience where they’re inspired by peers going through the same thing that they are – there’s no next year. If they don’t receive the treatment now, they’re gone. It’s terminal. It’s that serious.”
Gilbert gives a great deal of credit to fellow Rangers great Brian Leetch. Leetch’s involvement in the Ronald McDonald House back in 1994 inspired his fellow Blueshirts to join Gilbert’s efforts to make a difference. The demands of today’s NHL season make it too difficult for active players to attend Skate with the Greats, but the involvement of Rangers alumni, including icons from the 1994 Cup team, has kept the tradition alive.
It takes $25,000 a day to run New York’s Ronald McDonald House, but thanks to fundraisers like Skate with the Greats and generous donations, families are asked to pay just $35 a night – and if a family cannot afford to pay, they’re not turned away.
Ronald McDonald House New York provides temporary housing for pediatric cancer patients and their families in a strong, supportive and caring environment which encourages and nurtures the development of child-to-child and parent-to-parent support systems.
Ronald McDonald House New York does amazing work helping families from all over the world that endure the unimaginable. The House itself can host just over 80 families and is within close proximity to 16 major cancer treatment centers. It is a place of hope. It is a place that every city needs.
Please consider donating to the Ronald McDonald House.