Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ten-Year Old Raises Awareness for Lighthouse Project

Meet Matthew Pemberton, a fourth grade student at Connolly Elementary School in Glen Cove.
Over the past few weeks, Matthew and his parents, Brian and Tina, along with many Long Islanders, have had growing concerns over the progress of the Lighthouse project’s approval process. But what makes the Pembertons are a bit different than a growing majority.

In the days leading up to the 180th information session held by the heads of the Lighthouse project, Matthew took it upon himself to do his part for both his community and his favorite hockey team. Over the course of seven lunch periods, Matthew walked around the school cafeteria collecting the signatures of his friends and teachers to help raise community awareness for the Lighthouse project.

After returning from school, Brian Pemberton, Matthew’s father helped him type the names to better organize the list.
“It had, I would say, 130 names on it,” said Brian. “But we weren’t really sure how to get this list to the Islanders, until I got an e-mail from the Lighthouse project telling me about the meeting at the Mariott,” he said. “So I said to Matthew, 'do you want to go?' ”
Matthew’s answer was an emphatic yes. The family attended the meeting that drew over 1,000 people, according to Newsday.

As Charles Wang, the Islanders' owner and financier of the Lighthouse, walked to the podium start the meeting, he made the audience aware of Pembertons’ efforts. The family then presented Wang with the list of names in favor of the Lighthouse project, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Pembertons, who had been attending Islanders’ games casually for a few years, began following the team more closely after Matthew came home from school one December day with two free tickets to an Islanders’ home game.

As part of the “Islanders in the Community” project, the team sent a staff that included former player Steve Webb and team mascot Sparky the Dragon to a number of elementary schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Queens. Each student was given two free tickets to an upcoming home game, in addition to an assembly about how teamwork is important in every facet of life.

Since the Islanders’ school assembly, Matthew and his family have attended roughly 10 games this year. His parents also threw a birthday party for him and some friends at the March 8 game against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Islanders won 3-2 that night, with Kyle Okposo, Matthew’s favorite player, notching the game-winning goal.

The Islanders have reached out to thousands of children all over Long Island to increase interest in both the Islanders and hockey in general. The Pembertons have even gone ice skating a few times recently, and Matthew has a growing interest in playing hockey.

But with the help of 130 of his friends, it was Matthew who was giving back to the Islanders, and possibly, all of Long Island.

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