The 20th annual "Skate With the Greats" fundraiser takes place this Friday, January 17 at Rockefeller Center. The annual event—which pairs the public and kids with active and former New York Rangers players, including Hall of Famers Rod Gilbert and Brian Leetch—has raised millions of dollars over the past 20 years for Ronald McDonald House New York, which supports families with children undergoing treatments for cancer.
Attendees at Skate With the Greats enjoy private time on the ice, interacting with hockey legends, food and drink, and the opportunity to bid on NHL-related memorabilia and experiences in both silent and live auctions. In addition, they have the opportunity to skate alongside hockey players and alumni of the New York Rangers. Photo and autograph opportunities also abound.
"It fits the mold in a way that it's like a gala," says Bill Sullivan, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House New York. The food, drink, ticket prices and fundraising all fit the gala model, but minus the expensive ball gowns. It's also an event for the whole family. "Kids love it. There are even kid-oriented food stations (in addition to the adult-focused ones), that have hot dogs and other food kids love." Live and silent auctions offer up one-of-a-kind Rangers memorabilia and experiences like VIP seats for games and Zamboni rides.
Individual tickets are $500 (children $200), but in addition to the entertainment return from the evening, guests appreciate that the monies are going to a good cause. "It's an event that these days provides close to a million dollars each year," says Sullivan. "It's a terrific partnership with the Rangers and with the business community that has endured for 20 years. For the team, and Madison Square Garden, to stick with this event for 20 years is truly special." Corporate sponsors for the event this year include RBC Capital Markets (serving as title sponsor the fourth year), Bloomberg Inc., Zurich Capital, and a newcomer, Brookfield Office Properties. RMH and the Rangers work together with MSG's charity wing Garden of Dreams to make the whole thing happen.
The event, which draws almost 1,000 people each year, is also special for the participating hockey players, according to NHL Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert. "Nothing is more heartwarming than sharing the joys of less fortunate children skating with former Rangers players, learning from them and getting their autographs. Vivian Harris from the House committed me to make a contribution years ago, and it has been most rewarding."
Gilbert (the first Rangers player to have his number retired) says he helped launch the first Skate With the Greats, raising $60,000 and refurbishing a room in the House. "This long-standing event is one I look forward to each year, because I know we are making a difference in the lives of children facing incredible health obstacles each day."
That room in the House, according to Sullivan, is dubbed the Play Room, originally equipped with pinball machines and video arcade games and adorned with Rangers memorabilia. That Gilbert, Leetch and others helped renovate and update the Play Room recently (installing flat screen TVs and contemporary gaming consoles) is a testament to the Rangers' dedication to the House. "The junior players, especially, come up to the House throughout the year and visit the kids. Their wives and girlfriends will come watch games with the kids and bring desserts. They have a real understanding of what the charity does, and the relationship has meaning outside the fundraiser."
Skate With the Greats 2014 takes place at Rockefeller Center on Friday, January 17. Individual tickets cost $500 for adults, $200 for children, and include food, drink and entertainment. Group sponsorships also available. For more information, visit rmh-newyork.org/skate Those who are interested in supporting the event but can't attend can also donate at the site.
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author has been invited to attend the Skate With the Greats event in a media capacity.