Autism Speaks Scores At Barclays Center

Players of all ages waiting for the puck drop at the Hockey Helping Kids JV game
Players of all ages waiting for the puck drop at the Hockey Helping Kids JV game

Barclays Center may have been the site of a recent tilt between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders; it was also where the Hockey Helping Kids program recently took place. Sponsored by New Jersey-based software company Commvault, this event raises money for local children’s charities through activities that include junior varsity and varsity pickup hockey games, auctions, raffles and corporate sponsors that include Microsoft, Windows Server, Shoprite and Harrington Search. It also includes collaborations with a number of NHL clubs and since the first event was held at Madison Square Garden back in 2001, upwards of $1.2 million has been raised. 

For this go-round, the Long Island chapter of Autism Speaks was the beneficiary. Commvault Chief Technologist, Windows Products & Microsoft Partnership Randy De Meno, who is the company’s third longest tenured employee, has been involved with the program since the beginning and is the father of three kids, one of whom, his 22-year-old son, is autistic.

CommVault Chief Technologist Windows Products & Microsoft Partnership Randy De Meno (left) and Autism Speaks Long Island Chapter Vice President Edward Nitkewicz (Photo by Dave Gil de Rubio)
Commvault Chief Technologist Windows Products & Microsoft Partnership Randy De Meno (left) and Autism Speaks Long Island Chapter Vice President Edward Nitkewicz (Photo by Dave Gil de Rubio)

“I never worked with, nor did my son ever get the benefit of the Long Island chapter of Autism Speaks, so I know firsthand the cost that goes into working with these kids and the families. Now we’re lucky—my son isn’t here tonight because he’s studying for a final exam in college. Hockey was a big part of his socialization, so for me, getting a couple of kids on the ice is why inclusion is such a big part of this event,” he explained. “I could have 100 customers on that ice, but I made sure to include kids…it’s a big part of the event. I’m lucky because my kid was one of the ones that’s been mainstreamed. I know how much cost, time and effort that took, and this is a small way that Commvault and I can give back. That’s why we do this.”

Other NHL teams that have been involved with the Hockey Helping Kids program include the Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Rangers. So it meant a lot to Autism Speaks Long Island Chapter Vice President Edward Nitkewicz, the father of an 18-year-old autistic son, that the Islanders offered to host Hockey Helping Kids and help raise money for his organization. Nitkewicz, who went to Staten Island’s Wagner College with De Meno’s wife, initially connected with her spouse on Facebook. From there, Nitkewicz’s relationship with numerous alumni, including Garth Snow, Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom, helped make this night possible.

“A lot of the money we raise goes to local grants for organizations that provide therapeutic programs and tools that will help children with autism,” he explained. “It’s a spectrum disorder; therefore, it’s obviously very important to provide for all kids on that spectrum. So we have programs that can work with high-functioning and low-functioning children and of course, in the middle.”

hockeyhelpingkids_121606cThe Rangers fell by a score of 4-2 to the Islanders, but it was the kids and families affiliated with the Long Island Chapter of Autism Speaks who were the real winners that night.

Visit www.commvault.com/hockey for more information about Hockey Helping Kids.

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Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of Massapequa Observer and Hicksville News, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI).

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