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Graves inspires ailing Rangers fan

Rangers great Adam Graves hands out gifts to

Rangers great Adam Graves hands out gifts to young patients at Rusk Institute at NYU Lancone through Madison Square Garden's Garden of Dreams Foundation. (Oct. 10, 2011) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

When Adam Graves gives you an assist, you don't keep it to yourself. That is the opinion of Jason Mayo, a Rangers season-ticket holder from Bellmore who decided to take a good deed from Graves and keep passing it along.

That explains why Mayo wrote and published a children's book after Graves hosted Mayo and an ailing buddy in a luxury suite during a Rangers game. That explains why Mayo is donating all the proceeds to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, Madison Square Garden's children's charity. And that explains why Mayo was at a hospital in Manhattan Monday, reading his book to children, with Graves by his side.

"It has changed my whole life, really," Mayo said after he read "Do Witches Make Fishes?" to young patients, many of whom are in wheelchairs and most of whom had endured a daunting day of rehab at the Rusk Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Still, they were engaged by the story, which promotes healthy eating and being attentive to parents. As tired as they were late in the afternoon, Graves noticed that every child was smiling. He complimented them during his brief talk after Mayo's presentation.

In an interview later, Graves said, "It doesn't have to pertain to sports. It's the fact that someone they wouldn't otherwise get to meet came in and is taking an interest in what they're doing. You can relate that same ideal to sport. You can talk to someone who is struggling. Then they put in one goal and their mind opens up. Their confidence comes back."

Graves always believed in encouragement. He still does. So he responded on opening night 2009 when Mayo emailed him about his lifelong friend, Rich Einhorn of Bayside, who was quite ill with cancer. Mayo hoped Graves might be able to send a note. Instead, he hosted Mayo and Einhorn in a Garden suite during the game, just the three of them.

"I was feeling pretty horrible, but it felt like we were with some guy we grew up with," said Einhorn, who also attended the event Monday, taking pictures of his buddy and Graves.

Soon after that suite visit, Mayo started a collection on his Rangers-related blog. Then he wrote the book, solely for charity. "I just felt I had to give something back to the Garden of Dreams," he said. "It's like paying it forward."

The first thing Graves said to Einhorn on Monday was "you look terrific." Einhorn later said, "I'm not cancer-free, but I'm feeling a lot better." He is healthy enough to be planning to attend the home opener with Mayo on Oct. 27. The friends believe this is going to be a good season. Said Mayo, "There's always hope."

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