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Atkinson's Keep Hope Alive Festival a resounding success

Updated 10:34 pm, Friday, July 26, 2013

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  • At left, former N.Y. Jet football star Marty Lyons shakes hands with New York Ranger Derick Brassard, right, as Greenwich native, Cam Atkinson, center, of the Columbus Blue Jackets, smiles during the Cam Atkinson Keep Hope Alive Festival to benefit the Marty Lyons Foundation at Old Town Hall in Stamford, Friday night, July 26, 2013. The Marty Lyons FoundationâÄôs mission is granting wishes to children with terminally ill and life threatening illnesses Photo: Bob Luckey / Greenwich Time
    At left, former N.Y. Jet football star Marty Lyons shakes hands with New York Ranger Derick Brassard, right, as Greenwich native, Cam Atkinson, center, of the Columbus Blue Jackets, smiles during the Cam Atkinson Keep Hope Alive Festival to benefit the Marty Lyons Foundation at Old Town Hall in Stamford, Friday night, July 26, 2013. The Marty Lyons FoundationâÄôs mission is granting wishes to children with terminally ill and life threatening illnesses Photo: Bob Luckey

 

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STAMFORD -- A festive atmosphere was felt in every room of the first floor at the Stamford Old Town Hall Friday night. In one room a large group of kids laughed while playing a Pop a Shot basketball game, while others tested their skills at Guitar Hero and air hockey. In another room, kids and adults proudly posed with NHL players Martin St. Louis, Derick Brassard, James Van Riemsdyk, Cam Atkinson and Kevin Shattenkirk, to name a few.

Indeed, judging from the smiles on the youngsters faces, the interest many showed in the impressive silent auction items and the amount of money raised, Cam Atkinson's second annual Keep Hope Alive Festival was a resounding success.

Atkinson, a Greenwich native, who plays right wing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, said the event already raised $46,000 and that was just an hour into the fundraiser. The event, which drew an All-Star list of NHL players, benefited the Marty Lyons Foundation for the second straight year.

"It's awesome to see this event come together so well," said Atkinson, who held the function at his mother's cashmere store Magaschoni in Greenwich last summer. "It's great to have all of these people come out and support the cause. There's nothing better you can do than help out sick children."

The entire hallway on the first floor was filled with sports memorabilia for a silent auction and special live auction packages such as a swimming clinic with Olympic star Ryan Lochte and a "Salute to the Sandman" experience with New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

"We made a lot of improvements from last year and really upped the ante," said Atkinson, whose father Tom also helped coordinate the event. "It's a really great night."

Lyons, a 12-year standout defensive lineman for the New York Jets, began his foundation while playing professional football in 1982. A series of events in March of that year had a profound effect on Lyons, inspiring him to start a foundation granting the wishes of kids aged 3-17 who have been diagnosed with terminal or life threatening illnesses.

"My son Rocky was born on March 4 of 1982, my dad died of a heart attack on March 8 at age 58 and a little boy Keith, to whom I was a Big Brother to, died of leukemia on March 10," Lyons said. "I woke up and realized that starting this foundation for terminally ill children was a vehicle for helping them and myself and was a way to keep Keith and my dad alive."

Lyons was impressed with the atmosphere surrounding Friday night's event, and with Atkinson for initiating it last year.

"You look around here and there's nothing you can think of that hasn't been done," Lyons said. "Cam decided at an early age to do the right thing and take his name, talent and guys in the NHL into a fundraiser."

Former New York Rangers defenseman Dave Maloney served as the master of ceremonies of the charity event, which included food donated by Joey B's, Bobby Valentine's, Rico's Pizza and Bobby Q's, Columbus Park and Asiana.

"It's quite an honor to be here," Maloney said. "Cam has done a really nice job with this event. He's a great guy from a great family. I'm seeing a lot more younger players get involved in giving back to the community, which is a great thing."

St. Louis, who plays right wing for the Tampa Bay Lightning and has a summer home in Greenwich, also attended the function last year.

"When guys in the community ask for your help to get involved in the community it's a no-brainer," said St. Louis, who had a group of youngsters around him excited to get his autograph. "It's our duty as professional athletes. We are blessed to play a sport for a living and fortunate. It's our duty to help out."

St. Louis believes his squad will move up in the standings this season.

"Like every other team we are trying to get better from last year," St. Louis said. "Fourteen teams didn't make the playoffs and we were one of them, so we need to get in there this year."

Shattenkirk, who attended Brunswick School for a time and now plays for the St. Louis Blues, shared the same sentiment.

"For us, we know we have it pretty good and we all feel that we hit a good spot in our lives," Shattenkirk said. "But you can't forget about the people around you, some of whom are struggling through difficult circumstances. It's good to set an example and do something like this for children."

He also is optimistic about his team's fortunes for the 2013-14 season.

"Every year we keep making strides," Shattenkirk said. "We are doing a great job of progressing as a team. Hopefully, we don't run into Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings goalie) too often."

Stamford resident, former New York Mets manager and current Sacred Heart University Executive Athletic Director Bobby Valentine enjoyed taking pictures with fans young and old, while talking sports.

"Cam's aunt and uncle are very good friends of mine and we have been watching him play hockey forever," Valentine said. "He is doing wonderful things on the ice and cool things off the ice. It's pretty special to see a young man like him give back. I'm amazed at how many of his fellow NHL players are here. They're all great guys."

Greenwich High School boys hockey coach Bob Russel is proud of Atkinson, who he coached in Pee Wee hockey.

"It's wonderful to see these guys give up their time and show such generosity early in their career," Russel said. "What they're doing at such a young age is a really good sign."

david.fierro@scni.com; 203-625-4423

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