It's hard to believe it's been more than six months since Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and that the area is still working hard rebuilding.
I was personally touched and saddened by the devastation of the New York neighborhoods, which have become my American home since joining the New York Rangers in 2005.
To see the storm-ravaged communities and know that these are Ranger's fans - part of our team's family and people who have supported my career and our team season after season - we knew that we had to devise an effort to help and support them in return.
I decided to auction off my facemask in an auction hosted by Steiner Sports and donate that money toward efforts helping families and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. To my surprise, the mask was auctioned for $66,000.
I then made the connection with Family-to-Family, a local New York City grassroots charity that specializes in matching those in need with those able to help, who was able to put the money raised through the auction to immediate use.
Family-to-Family traditionally focuses on poverty and literacy, but when Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, the organization sprang to action - quickly adapting their service focus to make hurricane relief their forefront effort. What was unique about the Family-to-Family team was that they were connecting those in need with those who want to help in a grassroots fashion - addressing one specific need/family/donor at a time.
To date, Family-to-Family has provided Hurricane Sandy victims with everything from pillows, blankets, air mattresses, clothing, kitchen items and small appliances to holiday toys and dinners, space heaters, cleaning products, cell phones and more.
Most recently, Family-to-Family organized the "Comforts of Home Welcome Box" campaign that aims to re-stock the kitchen cupboards of families still struggling from the effects of the storm. The "Comforts of Home" grocery boxes are designed to re-stock kitchen essentials such as sugar, flour, jelly, rice, pasta, oatmeal, canned tomatoes, etc. as well as dish towels, and pot holders.
For others looking to help, Family-to-Family has provided a simple way for donors across the country to click, order and share a "Comforts of Home Box" for affected families. For $62, the care packages are filled with basic food essentials for selected hurricane-affected families in Staten Island, The Rockaways, Brooklyn, New York City and Ocean County, New Jersey.
Charitable work is something that I take an active part in - and wish to continue with Family-to-Family's local efforts. I've been working closely with the Garden of Dreams Foundations since signing on as the spokesman in 2009. Also, my clothing line, the Crown Collection, which is sold exclusively in Madison Square Garden, sends a portion of the proceeds from sales to the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
New Yorkers are known for being many things - among them being tough and strong. I know that these neighborhoods will make a complete comeback and am dedicated to helping as much as I can in the process.