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Islanders greats, Esiason take to rink for charity
For Kevin Barattini, reaching back to his glory days on the ice was the best way he knew how to help the future of two local charities close to his heart.
Barattini brought his former Kings Park-Commack teammates back on the ice to face off against former New York Islander legends and NFL great Boomer Esiason in the charity game. After skating neck-and-neck for most of the game, the Islander throwback team won 6-5.
The money raised will be split between the Frank J. Rizzo V Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Sarah Grace Foundation for Children with Cancer.
“The game is a lot of fun,” said Boomer Esiason, who played on the team with Islander greats including Clark Gillies, Benoit Hogue and recently retired Doug Weight.
“But more importantly, they’re gonna raise a lot of dough, which is why we are all here.”
This is the second year Barattini, 30, of St. James, organized the game in honor of his friend and former teammate Frankie Rizzo. He died in a car accident in 2010, the day after his 30th birthday, and soon after his family started the scholarship fund in his name.
At yesterday’s game, the team retired Rizzo’s number – 68.
The Sarah Grace Foundation was established in honor of Sarah Grace Weippert, who died of leukemia when she was 12. Barattini met the Weippert family when his company, Barattini Productions, provided entertainment for a party the foundation hosted for children with cancer.
“Being able to play with these guys is incredible,” said Barattini about the former Islanders he grew up idolizing. “But seeing these parents memorializing their kids – you just can’t put a price tag on that.”
While he didn’t know the exact amount raised by the game just yet, Barattini was sure they had surpassed the $12,000 the game pulled in last year.
According to Sarah’s father, Matthew Weippert, the money will be put to good use.
“The funds that are raised will have a huge impact on children with cancer,” he said.
For 10 years the Sarah Grace foundation has been hosting holiday parties and events for kids while they are sick, as well as providing financial and emotional support for their families.
“I can’t believe Sarah has been gone that long,” he said of his daughter.
For the Rizzo family, seeing the Kings Park-Commack team play at Superior Ice Rink in Kings Park, their home rink, was bittersweet.
“He spent as much time here as he did at home,” said Frank Rizzo of his son, Frankie.
Ryan Rizzo said the added bonus was hearing stories about his older brother from the friends and former teammates who were playing in his honor.
Of his brother, he said, “He’s here today and he’s really proud right now.”