Local hockey players suited up and hit the ice for a philanthropic cause on March 11 — the 4h-Annual Tom Needham Rick Welsh Ice Hockey Fundraiser for Parents of Blind Children of New York — at the Aviator Sports Center in Marine Park. The close game kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, but the best part about it was that it was for a good cause, said one Staten Islander who came with her son to watch her husband pass around the puck.
“It was very nice. It was a really good game, good quality hockey,” said Fannie Petrarca. “It was a great fundraiser we hope to be part of it next year as well.”
The game raised more than $1,200, and all proceeds went to the Parents of Blind Children of New York, a division of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State, that helps parents ensure their children get the most out of life and their education.
Each year, organizer Tommy Needham, who lost his vision in 2005, chooses someone who recently passed away for whom to dedicate the event, and this year’s game was extra special because it was for his own father, Tom Needham, who died in January, he said.
“I had to take a knee on center ice for my father. And then my mom dropped the puck,” said Needham, who lives in Staten Island, but grew up in Bay Ridge.
He said it felt very appropriate to dedicate this year’s game to his father, who was as dedicated to the event as he is.
“My dad was a big part of it,” Needham said. “It was heartbreaking, but he always looked forward to it.”
Needham captained team Holden It Rugged against Jarrids Penguins. The Penguins won 6–4, but the game isn’t just about the score, said Needham.
Some of the game’s best players received trophies — also named after people who have passed, including the Veronica Ferrara most-valuable-player trophy and the Anthony Brown goalie trophy, according to Needham.
And all attendees had the chance to take home a bunch of raffle prizes, including tickets to the New York Rangers, New York Devils, and Brooklyn Cyclones.