The New York Rangers with Silvana and Lana Budimir.
It was an unseasonably warm night in February and while most New Yorkers were taking the opportunity to enjoy an alfresco meal or cocktail, more than 1,000 people at Rockefeller Center were getting outside for a different sort of reason. Ice skating enthusiasts, Rangers fans, celebrities, and philanthropists alike took to The Rink at Rockefeller Center on Friday, February 24 to support the 23rd annual Skate with the Greats, an event that brings Rangers legends together to support Ronald McDonald House New York’s strides to offer a home-away-from-home atmosphere and special programming for families who come to NYC seeking cancer treatment for their children.
The all-ages evening started with a special VIP pre-event that allowed guests to request autographs, take photos, and mingle with Rangers alumni like 1994 Stanley Cup legends Adam Graves and Brian Leetch, Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert, and MSG Network analyst Ron Duguay. The main event kicked off with the introduction of Silvana Budimir and her nine-year-old daughter, Lana, who had come all the way from Croatia seeking cancer treatment. Silvana shared a heartwarming story about how she’d found some of the comforts of home through the work of Ronald McDonald House New York, and Rangers legends presented Lana with her very own personalized team jersey. Afterward, beloved Blueshirts like Leetch, Graves, and another 1994 teammate, Stephane Matteau, attracted a long line for autographs, while other hockey greats like Gilbert hit the ice with young and old event-goers alike.
New York Rangers Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and Stephane Matteau sign autographs.
Guests had a myriad of ways to help Ronald McDonald House New York support families like Lana’s throughout the evening. A live auction included experiences with Rangers alumni and coveted outings like a dinner at Rao’s, while a silent auction offered the chance to bid on signed helmets, team photos, and jerseys—from not only the Rangers but memorabilia from various sports teams, celebrities, and pop culture icons.
So, what makes this evening stand out among the many other events that Ronald McDonald House New York and the New York Rangers participate in? “I think the Rangers’ presence is probably the signature part of this [event], said Dr. Ruth Browne, President & CEO of Ronald McDonald House New York. “This is something that they hold dear, and they show up for us.” Graves, who has been involved in the event since it started 23 years ago, echoed those sentiments. “This is something completely different and I think it really has its own niche to it—people love it,” said Graves. “At the same time, we’re all here celebrating and supporting kids and the families at a time when they need it most.”
Dr. Ruth Browne, President & CEO of Ronald McDonald House New York, with the Budimir family, former New York Ranger Ron Duguay, and Ronald McDonald.
And when you realize that it’s a beloved New York sports team supporting a local organization in an iconic NYC location like Rockefeller Center, it all comes full circle. “What’s wonderful about Ronald McDonald House is the local presence,” Dr. Brown explains. “You hear about the national organization, you hear about the Ronald McDonald Houses all over the country—but when people see it right there in their own communities, that makes a big difference. We’re located so close to 16 cancer care centers and now we’re expanding our footprint so that we’re doing more in New York City with the opening of the Brooklyn Family Room at King's County Hospital. It’s not just a place where you come stay. There’s full programming for the caregivers—the moms, the dads, the grandmas.”
As for Graves, his support of Ronald McDonald House New York goes far beyond the event. “I’ve been over to visit the house at different times,” he shared. “My family has gone over to visit, and they’ve met some of the kids, and they’ve befriended kids. Life is a journey, and what makes the journey special is the people. And when you’re coming to events like this, you’re meeting so many special people. It doesn’t matter how old you are—you can learn from everyone you meet. And certainly this [event] is a great case in point. If you do have the opportunity to go by a Ronald McDonald House, you’ve got to do it because it’s just a terrific organization.”