01/25/2013 08:06 am ET Updated Mar 27, 2013

How the Garden of Dreams Foundation Helps Me Smile -- and Give Back

I have a few passions in life, my family, hockey and serving the community. While playing with the New York Rangers from 1991-2001, I had the privilege of having my personal dream come true of playing hockey at the highest level, while also giving back to the community.

From a young age I was privileged enough as a child to share my room and home with foster children and I learned so much from them.

As a professional athlete it is important that we support our local communities and lend a helping hand. There is a responsibility that comes with being fortunate enough to play at the professional level; whether it is visiting sick children in the hospital, hosting a toy drive or hosting a family at a game.

Over the years my own children have been actively involved with the Rangers' community efforts. My oldest daughter Madison began helping with youth hockey camps at the age of 10. Montana, my second daughter has also volunteered her time to help with clinics and camp for the last few years. As a family for the last two years, my wife and three children, Logan being the youngest, have volunteered to serve at the annual MSG Day of Giving on Christmas day. By far this is one of the highlights of the year for us as a family. To see my children giving to others makes me very proud. It makes me even prouder that they have asked to do it the last two years.

Since retiring in 2003, I was given an incredible opportunity to return to the organization in a different capacity, helping to build the team working with hockey operations and giving back to the community through my role with the Garden of Dreams Foundation and our grassroots programs.

A year ago the Foundation began a floor hockey program for inner-city children, called Power Players. The program was created to teach children who would not normally have access to hockey the game. Being that hockey is such a passion of mine, I loved the idea of this program. This eight week program also focuses on values we all need to learn in life, commitment, excellence, fun, respect, responsibility and teamwork. Participating in the final tournament showed me how much their lives were impacted by the program by the way they smiled and how much fun they are having just by playing something as simple as floor hockey.

Since 2006, I have gained an abundance of friendships through the Foundation. One that immediately comes to mind is Chris, a young man who I met when he was 17, he is now 21. We call each other regularly and he never forgets to send me a happy birthday text. We have enjoyed Rangers' games together and I am always eager to hear his hockey assessment of our favorite team, the New York Rangers. When I spend time with Chris I realize how fortunate I am to have him in my life. People may think he is fortunate to have me, but I see it the other way around.

Then there is Taylor. She and I met in 2010, while I was visiting Stephen and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. She was undergoing grueling treatment and I, a total stranger walked into her hospital room. Taylor was so happy and gracious during our visit, never once complaining about being sick. We immediately formed a bond and it has been going strong ever since. She and I speak often, usually I call to encourage her, but instead typically she encourages me.

Having the opportunity to meet these children and share our mutual passion for hockey, blesses me as much as it may them. These are relationships that will last a lifetime! When I am old and gray (oops, I am already gray) I know Chris and I will still enjoy hockey talk and Taylor and I will still enjoy a smile.

This Saturday, January 26 I hope you will join me for a smile at Garden of Laughs, a comedy event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden to benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation. How fitting that an organization that brings joy to children will gather some of the biggest names in comedy to make everyone laugh for a night and raise money to spread that laughter to children that need it most.