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Friday, August 21, 2009

Skate With The Pros a huge success

Compiled by MiCHO Staff

On Aug. 19, fans had the opportunity to skate on the Munn Arena ice with some of the program's brightest stars - and all for a good cause.

In conjunction with Michigan State University's Pro Camp, a group of 20 former Spartans now playing professional hockey participated in the first annual "Skate with the Pros," with all money raised going to the fight against children's cancer.

After Wednesday's Pro Camp session, fans paid $10 for the opportunity to skate with several of the professional players, followed by an autograph session on the north concourse. Posters with pictures of participating players were available to all attendees for the autograph session, but the players signed their share of jerseys, flags, and other Spartan memorabilia.

"We had a great crowd out here today, and I want to thank everyone who came out to support this cause," noted Shoot for a Cure founder Justin Abdelkader. "From our alums who participated to the fans who came out to enjoy the afternoon, I think everyone had a great time."
Skate with the Pros was the brainchild of recent Spartans Abdelkader, Bryan Lerg and Jeff Lerg, all of whom were involved with MSU's community service initiatives as undergrads and have continued to participate in MSU's activities as their professional careers began.

Abdelkader began "Shoot for a Cure" in January of 2008 as an offshoot of the Spartan Buddies program, started by East Lansing native and (and recent addition to the Tampa Bay Lightning) Drew Miller, Spartan Buddies brought MSU athletes to the pediatric ward at Sparrow Hospital, playing games and signing autographs for seriously and critically ill children.

As Abdelkader and several of his teammates developed friendships with several children battling cancer and their families, the then-junior wanted to do more - and the Shoot for a Cure initative was born.

"It was so great to see people get involved in Spartan Buddies when it first started, and to see the involvement grow through Shoot for a Cure is even better," noted Miller. "The guys who come back here know how important giving back to the community is to this program. The kids we meet are important first and foremost, and its great that Shoot for a Cure has allowed MSU to help financially in the fight against children's cancer."

"When I got the email from Justin about [Skate with the Pros], I thought it was a great idea," added Mike Weaver, who starred at MSU from 1996-2000 and now patrols the blue line for the St. Louis Blues. "MSU a big part of my life, I spent four great years here. Being able to give back is a great opportunity."

Shoot for a Cure has recently partnered with Brandon's Defense Foundation, which was created in honor of Brandon Gordon, a Dewitt teen who became very close with the MSU program during his two-year battle with osteosarcoma. His foundation, run by his mother, Julie, not only helps fund children's cancer research, but also donates significant resources to improve patient quality of life at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing - which is where Brandon first met members of MSU's hockey team.

"The first week he was diagnosed, Brandon met Chris Snavely, Justin Abdelkader and Tim Kennedy," recalls Julie Gordon, Brandon's mother. "The MSU hockey program kept him going and was a huge inspiration for him to continue to battle and get rid of the cancer. The hockey program and the university were very supportive of Brandon, and have been wonderful to our family. We thank them not only for the support they gave us, but now for their support of our initiatives with Brandon's Defense Foundation."

A total of $1,752 was raised at Skate with the Pros through admission, merchandise sales, and donations to both Shoot for a Cure and Brandon's Defense. Since its inception in January 2008, Shoot for a Cure has raised nearly $22,000 for the fight against children's cancer. The money has been raised through previous events which included chuck-a-puck at MSU home games, silent auctions, and a visit from the Stanley Cup last fall.

Photo of Kennedy and Katie Frayer courtesy Michigan State University

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